Theatre Mirror Reviews - "All My Sons"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"All My Sons"

by Arthur Miller
Directed by David Esbjornson

Scenic Design by Scott Bradley
Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind
Costume Design by Elizabeth Hope Clancy
Original Music and Sound Design by John Gromada
Projection Design by Maya Ciarrocchi
Casting by Alaine Alldaffer
Production Stage Manager Carola Morrone
Stage Manager Leslie Sears

Dr. Jim Bayliss........Ken Cheeseman
Joe Keller................Will Lyman
Frank Lubey...............Owen Doyle
Sue Bayliss...............Dee Nelson
Lydia Lubey.......Stephanie DiMaggio
Chris Keller.........Lee Aaron Rosen
Bert.....Andrew Cekela/Spencer Evett
Kate Keller..........Karen MacDonald
Ann Deever...............Diane Davis
George Deever........Michael Tisdale

First of all, it is glorious to see a cast headed by half a dozen of Boston's best actors filling Boston's biggest local stage with landmark performances. The Huntington Theatre Company's Artistic Director Peter DuBois has told directors and casting-directors to look for Boston actors first, and that rule is certainly paying off.

For this production of Arthur Miller's first success, Projection Designer Mia Ciarrocchi has filled the sky behind Scott Bradley's spacious mid-western 1947 back-yard with nightmare-glimpses of World War II and violently volatile storm-clouds. The war still dominates everyone's lives here, despite their attempts to put it past them and get on with life. Both of Joe Keller's sons --- in fact, most of the younger men in this small town --- served in the war. Chris Keller (Lee Aaron Rosen) was an officer most of whose men died in battle; he admits to something like survivor-guilt. His fighter-pilot brother, almost three years after, is missing, and presumed dead by everyone except his grieving mother (Karen MacDonald). And Joe Keller's factory converted to war-work, making parts for airplane engines, before re-converting after the war to making toaster- and washer-parts that returning veterans want to buy as they throw themselves into peacetime pursuits as enthusiastically as they did into uniform. The war and how they conducted themselves in it, haunts everyone. It particularly haunts Joe Keller (Will Lyman) and his wife. They are trying to live past a scandal involving defective parts that caused planes to crash.

The neighbors don't mention that, as life goes on, but few of them seem content with the lives they've evolved. Dr. Bayliss (Ken Cheeseman) thinks most of his patients are hypochondriacs and regrets he can't throw up a lucrative practice to do research. Frank Lubey (Owen Doyle) stayed a year past draft-age, safe from service, and regrets it; but he wanted to be not a haberdasher but to go into forestry service. Lydia Lubey (Stephanie DiMaggio) never expected to have one-two-three kids in quick succession --- in fact, she expected to marry George Deever (Michael Tisdale), who never asked her. Ann Deever (Diane Davis) was engaged to next-door-neigbor Larry Keller, but when he died discovered herself in love with his brother Chris --- though their mother Kate Keller insists their pilot-son will turn up alive and will still come him to marry Ann. Strange, how uncomfortable peacetime life can be.

All these ideas rattle around the central story of Joe Keller --- at 61 determined to clear himself of stigma as a war profiteer and eager to pass on to his remaining son the business he built for exactly that purpose. His neighbors pretend to forgive but can't forget, and a legal paper saying it was the Deever's dad who committed crimes at the plant cannot paper-over everyone's suspicions. Ultimately Will Lyman's embattled patriarch cannot forgive himself. Those pilots who crashed, he admits, were all his sons.

This is a complicated play --- but Director David Esbjornson and his splendid cast bring every detail of it achingly, humanly alive.

( a k a larry stark )

"All My Sons" (8 January - 7 February)
Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

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