Woody Allen’s Co-Ed Obsessions; Gay Brothers: Theater Review

Ari Graynor and Steve Guttenberg in "Honeymoon Motel" directed by John Turturro. Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

A fiftyish tuxedo-clad gentleman with a blissful expression (Steve Guttenberg) carries a twenty-something blonde in a wedding dress (Ari Graynor) over the threshold of a tacky honeymoon suite.

Turns out it was quite a ceremony -- we learn as relatives show up in the suite, tossing invectives. Woody Allen’s ingeniously plotted comedy is the last of three one-acts in Broadway’s “Relatively Speaking.”

“Honeymoon Motel” deals with familiar Allen obsessions about infidelity, May-December attraction and rules of behavior. (“Life is short and there are no rules,” says a pizza delivery man played by Danny Hoch.) While its premise may particularly appeal to men of a certain age who fancy women half their age, the laughter was co-ed.

Julie Kavner (from television’s “Rhoda” and “The Simpsons”) plays the bride’s tart-tongued mom, while Mark Linn-Baker is her dad. Richard Libertini is wonderful as a rabbi who utters every line with the cadence of a eulogy.

In Elaine May’s “George is Dead,” Marlo Thomas (from TV’s “That Girl”) is convincingly delightful as an over-indulged, helpless widow who delegates retrieving her husband’s body from Aspen to her former nanny’s daughter (Lisa Emery).

The slimmest offering, by Ethan Coen, is about a doctor (Jason Kravits) and a combative mental patient (Hoch).

Directed by John Turturro, the playlets concern themselves with corrosive family relationships. At a time when light contemporary comedy without songs or British accents is a rarity, they’re something different for Broadway. (Boroff)

At the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St. Information: +1-877-250-2929. http://relativelyspeakingbroadway. Rating: **

‘Sons of the Prophet’

Playwright Stephen Karam is moving up in the world. His first play, the terrific “Speech & Debate,” had its premiere in 2007 in the basement of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s off-Broadway theater.

That led to the commissioning of another play, and the result is the equally terrific “Sons of the Prophet,” which is running upstairs in the Roundabout’s grown-up space, the Laura Pels.

The sons in question are two gay brothers, Joseph (Santino Fontana) and Charles (Chris Perfetti), 29 and 18 respectively. They live in eastern Pennsylvania, where the towns have Biblical names (Nazareth, Emmaus, Bethlehem) and the religion-based publishing industry thrives.

Joseph, not in the closet but barely out, works as an assistant to the newly hired head of a small publishing house. Charles, call him far out, depends on his brother for stability after their father dies following a collision with a decoy deer placed by a high school prankster who happens to be a star football player.

The already motherless young men take in their cranky uncle (played with tremendous warmth and fire by Yusef Bulos).

The prophet of the title is Kahlil Gibran, distantly related to the boys, who are of Lebanese descent and who provides a kind of reference point in their lives, not always happily.

Karam sets up a face-off between the family and the boy responsible for their father’s accident. But that’s just a framework for more of the conversational tones he plays with so well, drawing us into the inner lives of these characters.

He gets great support from a wonderful cast and sensitive staging by Peter DuBois. Anna Louizos provides yet another of her ingenious morphing sets -- a comical character in its own way. They’re all good company. (Gerard)

Through Dec. 23 at the Laura Pels Theatre, 111 W. 46th St. Information: +1-212-719-1300; http://www.roundabouttheatre.org. Rating: ***

What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff and Jeremy Gerard and are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

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