The Power of Duff and the Power of Prayer

by:  Lisa Timmel at 09/30/2013

“Uniquely comic and unabashedly theatrical, The Power of Duff also pulses with incredible emotional clarity. It tells the transformative story of one man waking up to life, just as it seemed he was too lost and it was too late.”— Peter DuBois

Anthropologist T.M. Luhrman noted in The New York Times that “These days we Americans live not only with political schismogenesis, but also religious schismogenesis.” Schismogenesis describes “mirroring reactions,” such as when you are in an argument and everything the opposing side says just makes you dig your heels in deeper. A common occurrence of this: basically every argument on the internet. She points out that lately, the extremes — pro-religion vs. atheists — have been entrenched in a battle that doesn’t reflect the reality of American belief. With The Power of Duff, playwright Stephen Belber has stepped gently into one of those areas of American life that doesn’t garner headlines or fallacious comparison in the comment section. He’s written a heartfelt drama dealing with, among other things, the quiet inexplicability of our spiritual life and how it plays out in our relationship with others.

Belber was inspired by a Time magazine article about religion in America reporting that 95% of Americas believe in God. While not surprised by the statistic, it made him consider writing a character who accesses the public’s faith in an unlikely way.

The Power of Duff tells the story of Charlie Duff, an aging, cynical news anchor in Rochester, New York, who has lost his ambition and his family. One night, on impulse, he closes his broadcast with a brief, sincere prayer. He continues to offer prayers, to the objection of his colleagues, when he learns that the local community is comforted and mobilized to acts of charity by his statements. The community effect of Charlie’s prayer is central to Belber’s concept of the play: “I was indeed interested in the idea of prayer being answered by a community rather than a ‘higher power.’ . . . [considering] what is possible if those 19 out of 20 Americans who believe in God actually put their spirituality to work.”

According to Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life the percentage of believers in the United States has been remarkably steady over time, but more and more Americans eschew organized religion altogether (12%). Close to 70% of that group profess a belief in God, and one in five say they pray daily. Charlie Duff falls neatly into this group of the religiously unaffiliated who nonetheless express religious or spiritual feeling, even down to his use of an unlikely platform. Or as Charlie puts it, “I guess I’ve always been suspicious. [Of] Some sort of . . . force. To be reckoned with.”

Perhaps Charlie Duff’s brush with prayer is best characterized by philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s formulation: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Charlie’s sudden spiritual and emotional openness doesn’t just change the city of Rochester; it also changes him. It doesn’t perfect him, but by reaching out to others and being reached out to in turn, he finds the courage to attempt a reconciliation, to reach for wholeness.

  • Tags:


  1. to sink it hard, however, can not always have the grip sinking wandering soul; how many people floating lifeless, loss of conscience in officialdom in the property, the "Man's nature is good," the true meaning strangles, devoid! Nan said: "Reading the history of three thousand years, nothing more than fame and fortune, nine miles enlightenment, is always pastoral poetry and wine." House is nothing more than another big body capacity Seoul five feet, more luxurious car, but also a means of transport. And, lined with tall buildings block who look exactly Castle sight? A dusty haze in the end who had dyed a healthy body? Luxurious life, we "read" to what? Abandoned villages, we "see" what was the reason? The future, can allow you and I give up luxury, away from the hubbub, like a mountain stream, as guardian, silent love, loving flowers waiting for a quiet beauty, ecological plot together better living environment? If you can, please promise me, like a river clean watch lovingly mountains, grass smoothie like that, simple quiet life, tranquil forward; natural seeding in a calm Ning Wen Wanqing, Shizumori cloud water, the equanimity, I let you freely in the blue sky breathing, totem! Spring deep place I do not know, a touch long stream flow. Screenshot touch of sweet flowers, willing gorgeous bloom in nature, so tempting arms brilliant mind, Xu Li Kangan gas in the new body, long far Ju a handful of clear streams warm heart, the inhaled gas exhaled;. A Species thread spring in mind, let love in Life is a never-ending journey through some wonderful, some rough Ke Hum, and my life, flying all the way! While not exciting, memorable enough! People are yearning for a meteoric rise, meteoric rise in life, do you not know the way eloquent, I love you Shannon is also a supreme level. And my life is so! Even if not beautiful and seductive, but the way of atmosphere, the scenery along the way is enough to make you enjoy endless. While not asking for the moon, though not into the sky, while the middle part of twists and turns, bustling, too adorable! This life, it was jealousy, it was envy. Jealous of my life is so cheerful! I envy the pace is so fly Jian! My life, flying all the way! To say is fate! It goes well, but also crooked; it twists and turns, they still flew quickly. Midway There are many memorials, villain obstruction, there are corrupt resistance. Suffering does not exclude these, how you can travel on the sea? How flying all the way? For me the bottom of a people, be quick degrees, can be described as lucky! Although I did not complete the last mission now, because travel is not over yet. I'm still on the road flew, I still wander the landscape. In fact, the twists and turns of life is not a kind of beauty? People say, infinite in the awesome scenery! I think this is a kind of aesthetic realm! Mediocre is not beautiful life. Only bitter, tired, it felt sweet life. I believe, at the end of life, it is when I the beautiful scenery. At that time, when is my glory. I would like to contaminated dust on the road and are willing to enjoy the scenery on the way. At least there are simple ideas, have experience in the struggle. We do not undergo soil, how to know human suffering? Do not experience the experience along the way, it turns out the world's dangerous? Jing spine through the ups and downs, to get genuine talent they need to get the right position they need. Therefore, the twists and turns for me, is a great beauty in life, life is a wonderful story. There is the life story of a perfect life! Flying life is largely a qualitative leap! Leap, is progress. And I was to survive the leap in progress in the front row. Midway mantis, bugs, ants, cinch! Great risk, of course, need to adjust, need to integrate. As you know, the

Post a Comment


About me

Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!

Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115
South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA: 527 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02116
Main: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115 | 617 266 7900 | BOX OFFICE 617 266 0800

© 2016 Huntington Theatre Company. All rights reserved | Trouble viewing this site? Please download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.