Boston’s Huntington Theater Company has just staged a remarkable production of Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet. A man’s death leaves his two sons orphaned, and their uncle steps in to care for them. But the sons are 19 and 29, respectively, and clearly independent, while the uncle is sufficiently infirm that he can no longer climb stairs. Adding complexity, the elder brother is suffering from a mysterious illness—one that is starting to scare him.
Among other topics, the play dances around the issue of who is caring for whom. The older brother, who finds himself in a classic sandwich generation situation with a teen and an elder on his hands? The uncle, who moves in with the brothers, and tries to police what’s happening in second-story bedrooms he can’t access? The younger brother, to whom falls much of the practical caregiving for his uncle—and all the worry over his big brother’s health? Yes.
Ultimately, it becomes clear that, in fact, each of the main characters is caring for the other. And that that love, and outward-facing energy, is part of what keeps each moving forward through an emotionally turbulent time.
There are some powerful scenes and fine writing, which I would quote, if only I could find a copy of the script. But here’s the point:
Like it or not, we are all our brother’s keepers. It is core to our humanity. Irritating as it can be, for both caregivers and the care recipients, it is cause for celebration and gratitude.