The Power of Duff – Geffen Playhouse

This provocative and intriguing production explores the question of what happens when a network news anchor begins praying at the end of each broadcast. The script by Steven Delbar is taut with crisp dialogue, effective arguments and humorous asides.

Josh Stamberg plays the titular Charlie Duff, the Rochester news anchor who is both uncertain of his motives yet sincere in his delivery. Eric Ladin plays Scott Zoellner, the show’s producer, initially ready to fire Duff, but in the face of soaring social media metrics allows Duff to continue praying as Duff sees fit.

Yetta Gottesman (new to the cast) is Duff‘s co-anchor, initially aghast at Duff‘s behavior but admittedly grateful when a particular result seems to occur: a child kidnap victim is returned to her parents after Duff prays for her release. Brendan Griffin is a comic foil as John Ebbs, the overzealous sports caster. Last seen on Broadway in Clybourne Park, Griffin is alternately boisterous, energetic and tragic.Rounding out the cast are Maurice Williams  as Casey, an imprisoned criminal whom Duff befriends and Tanner Buchanan playing the sometimes shrill teenage son of Duff.

This former Western New Yorker appreciated the subtle and accurate touches in the production, including the Wegmans grocery bag, the Genesee beer and the Buffalo SabreJac; kudos to scenic designer Clint Ramos.

Josh Stamberg, Eric Ladin, Brendan Griffin and Elizabeth Rodriguez. Photo: Michael Lamont.

Josh Stamberg, Eric Ladin, Brendan Griffin and Elizabeth Rodriguez. Photo: Michael Lamont.

Love the SabreJac.  Josh Stamberg, Brendan Griffin and Tanner Buchanan in The Power of Duff. Photo: Michael Lamont.

Love the SabreJac.
Josh Stamberg, Brendan Griffin and Tanner Buchanan in The Power of Duff. Photo: Michael Lamont.

Director Stephen Belber keeps the production solidly on the rails; in lesser hands the complexity of the material would be a wreck of an evening. With a script such as this, that sets out such large and imponderable issues, it is often very difficult to bring the play to a satisfactory resolution. In this case Delbar resolves several of the many unanswered questions. Although this seeming lack of complete closure is initially disconcerting, it is in fact more representative of the greater issues explored.

The Geffen Playhouse generally avoids light and frothy productions, as is the case here. The Power of Duff is filled with wit and intelligence.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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