The Power of Duff marks the return of playwright Stephen Belber to the Huntington, following 2005's Carol Mulroney (the first production of ours to feature Johanna Day, who has since become a favorite of many of our audience members). Directed by our fearless leader Peter DuBois, The Power of Duff tells the story of a news anchor in Rochester named Charlie Duff who offers up a prayer on-air in honor of his recently deceased father, which in turn spins the community into a frenzy. So naturally, he keeps doing it. He soon finds himself at the center of a cult of (media) personality, while simultaneously trying to win back his estranged wife and son, neither of whom is particularly fond of Charlie's newfound spirituality. Peter worked with Stephen Belber on the show's world premiere at New York Stage & Film in the summer of 2012, and Stephen has been working hard on sharpening and honing the script for this next iteration.
At its core, The Power of Duff is the story of a desperate man's attempt to reconnect with something in the face of loss. One of the things that makes it so compelling is its multifaceted exploration of faith. The play is very much grounded in the present day, fully aware of the political climate of the country, and looks at the value and function of faith from many different perspectives. The initial prayer that sets the story off is not overtly religious by any means; Charlie himself invokes the Big G a few times, but he is hardly pious. Rather, it's a communal call to unite people together under something greater than their individual selves. Or, it's not, but that's part of what makes the story so captivating. It investigates the relationship between spirituality and religion, and the powers of community and belief.
And? It's hilarious. Seriously. The interactions between various the big-headed personalities of the newsroom where Charlie works are well worth the price of admission alone. One of my personal favorite little bits is the character of Ron Kirkpatrick, a reporter on the show who covers all kinds of bizarre and off-kilter human interest pieces on location, and only ever appears on video (it being a play about a TV news channel, there is a lot of really fascinating video projection work going on onstage as well). It's kind of like Anchorman meets The Newsroom times As Good As It Gets divided by About A Boy. Except not at all -- but admit it, you're intrigued.
Here's Peter DuBois discussing the show: