It’s not often that I see a play that keeps me riveted, has me laughing at the beginning, crying at the end, doesn’t require me to elbow my husband after intermission to keep him from snoring, and has the two of us discussing the many layers of this play in the car all the way home (especially on a day when it seems the only talk is about the Red Sox.)
This is The Power of Duff. There is so much going on in this play, it is hard to describe it- but I can tell you this-you definitely don’t want to miss it. And you better hurry, it ends on November 9.
Here is what I can tell you: Playwright Stephen Belber wrote The Power of Duff after reading a Time magazine article which revealed that 19 out of 20 Americans believe in God. With man’s faith in the almighty a central theme in the play, Belber gives us a totally modern, layered story that I will be thinking about for days to come.
The protagonist is emotionally constipated news anchorman Charles Duff, a guy who has a hard time hugging a cousin. After his father dies, Duff strays from his nightly send-off of “Have a safe and happy night” (his version of Edward R. Murrow’s, “Good Night and Good luck”), to offering a spontaneous prayer instead, stunning his co-anchor, his boss, and his TV audience. In a world of email, youtube and tweets, Duff unintentionally convinces the public, his co-workers, even the most hardened atheists (including himself) that he is a mouthpiece to the almighty. The only people he never convinces? Those he loves the most.
This play goes deep, and no doubt it strikes a different chord for all who see it. For me, the play was about how much all of us-even the biggest skeptics among us- want to believe in something.
It was about how difficult it is to get out of one’s own self of importance and ambition.
It was about the power of family, of hurt, betrayal and transformation. It was about the force of an angry teenage boy.
It was about the need for people to connect- even to tell their deepest, most embarrassing secrets to someone they trust.
It was about living with disease, about aging, about realizing what is truly important in life, and coming to terms with failing to reach one’s professional goals.
And while the visual effects of this play are bold and fantastic, it is the powerful characters that make the show.
We all know that pained teenager, that asshole boss, that loveable douche-bag that is the sportscaster, that neurotic stick-up-the butt woman, the guy who can’t quite manage a hug. Each character is real, complicated, loveable and stunningly acted.
The Power of Duff is playing at the Huntington Theatre in the South End, at the Calderwood Pavilion. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and you get to bring your red wine in to the theatre with you (a real bonus for my husband; an occupational hazard for me.) It’s @huntington and #thepowerofduff if you want to spread the word—and you will. Don’t miss this one.