Santino Fontana, last seen all a-smirk in The Importance of Being Earnest, now reappears in Stephen Karam's tremulously sincere comic-drama Sons of the Prophet, and, in case we didn't get the memo, firmly establishes himself as an indispensable stage star. The role he plays here, Joseph Douayhi—a young man dealing with an older man's pain, spiritually, physically, psychologically, and perhaps psychosomatically—couldn't be more different than his buoyant, impish Algernon Moncrieff, yet both parts display Fontana's impressive gifts: his flawless timing, his jeweler's eye for the emotional cruxes of every exchange, his comfort with discomfort. Like Tom Hanks and Tony Shalhoub before him, Fontana, with his pound-puppy eyes and perpetually alarmed voice, makes the leap from laughs to pathos so nimbly, you barely realize he's done it. He's always a step ahead of us, emotionally, as a great performer should be.
Sons of the Prophet is at the Laura Pels Theatre through December 23.