Review | “PROPHET$” at The Factory Theater

Review | “PROPHET$” at The Factory Theater

Pictured (l-r): Eric Roach, Anthony Tournis, Eric Wang. Photo by Michael Courier.

By Aaron Lockman

As the lights come up on “PROPHET$,” we meet three scam artists in their mid-forties – Vic (Anthony Tournis), the leader of the group, Seth (Eric Wang), the nervous and tightly wound one, and Owen (Eric Roach), the dumb one – all of whom have run out of money, have no place to crash and are at the end of their rope. But when a certain Reverend Leslie Goode (played with evil panache by Timothy C. Amos) suddenly appears on the TV, Vic has the beautiful, horrible idea to become the ultimate scam artist of all: a televangelist. The boys relocate to Texas and find success almost immediately, but things get complicated. Not only does their production manager Darla (Ashley Yates) find them out and want in on the scheme, but the same power-hungry Reverend who inspired them in the first place starts to notice them stealing his customers.

It’s a relatively stock plot, albeit with a unique twist; the televangelism industry is positively ripe for satire, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen this particular mashup before. As with most farce, the concept is only as good as the execution – and there is plenty to love here.

Factory company member and playwright Anthony Tournis (who also stars as Vic) does a magnificent job of continually upping the stakes over the ninety-minute runtime. Each new problem thrown at our plucky criminal protagonists gets increasingly ridiculous but still follows logically from the last one, which keeps the escalation grounded yet infectiously fun. And most importantly, the jokes are uniformly hilarious throughout – including one particular crack involving Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” that nearly had me on the floor. The onus is largely on the actors to keep the thing swinging, and the entire cast is blessed with some electric chemistry and inspired comedic timing. Although it must be said that Eric Roach’s performance, as the bombastic and beautifully dumb Owen, is undoubtedly the highlight of the evening.

The characters – and consequently, the performances – do suffer a bit from a lack of depth; our whole crew is drawn from the thinnest of comedy archetypes, and their motivations and wants are straightforward and clearly illustrated. This isn’t much of a problem, however, since the comedy of “PROPHET$” is mostly brain, with just enough small infusions of heart to give it some lovely moments towards the end.

Does it have much to say about the televangelism industry? How it might hint at some larger issues concerning what we choose to worship in this country? Perhaps, but I didn’t think so. Most of the satire is there for laughs, but you know what? I don’t even care. There is something incredibly healthy about a good, decent belly laugh in these dark times, and “PROPHET$” has that in spades.

About author

Aaron Lockman

Aaron Lockman is an actor and playwright. Credits include Metropolis Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, the side project, Surging Films and Theatrics, and The Living Room. His plays have been seen at The Theater at Monmouth, Mary's Attic, Prop Theatre, and Columbia College. Aaron also writes reviews with You can hear his voice on the podcast The Audio Diary of Aaron Lockman, or on the audiobooks Surviving Hitler, Locke and Key, and The X-Files: Cold Cases. You might also have seen him narrating sky shows at the Adler Planetarium. Aaron enjoys walking dogs, playing with Legos, talking excitedly about astronomy, and making annoying puns.