Theatre Mirror Review "All My Sons"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"All My Sons"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

New England Repertory Company's winter show at MMAS is Arthur Miller's searing drama, "All My Sons". The show takes place in 1947 and is an impassioned wartime saga of the Kellers, a mid-Western family struggling with their secrets and tragedies. Joe, the father is a fiercely loyal family man who has built a successful manufacturing firm which has come under investigation for selling defective parts to the army. When twenty-one pilots die as a result, he is arrested, tried and cleared. However his partner, Steve Deever is convicted and jailed. Larry, Joe's son is a pilot who is MIA but his mother Kate believes him to be still alive after three years. When their other war hero son, Chris returns home, he announces his engagement to his brother's girlfriend, Ann (Deever's daughter), his mother becomes distraught. Further tensions mount as the fabric of the family is torn. Suspicion arises about a possible cover-up of who was really responsible for sending the parts which leads to an inevitable tragic conclusion. Director Mike Kiernan casts these ten roles wonderfully in this taut and powerful human drama. His talented cast renders a gut wrenching performance that moves the audience to tears.

The first act tells the story of the events of the past that lead to the confrontation and argument action in the second and third. The show begins with a tree dedicated to Larry being knocked over by a strong wind which foreshadows the events to come. Mike builds the tension of the show which culminates when the son realizes his father's guilt. The son breaks down at the end of the second act and sobs uncontrollably with his mother at the close of the show. The gorgeous outdoor house set is magnificent. The realistic set was created by Ted Talanian. It is so realistic that you'd believe it is an actual house inside this theatre. The lighting design by Ken Butler depicts the different times of day, afternoon in August, later that day near twilight and 2 A.M. in the morning. The beautiful 1940's costumes are by Mary Jane McCool. The combination of all these ingredients create a stunning performance. The expertise of the cast leads to a standing ovation at the close of this poignant and touching show.

Frank Bartucca does a wonderful job as Joe. The past comes back to haunt him over and over again, no matter how hard he tries to cover the tracks. Frank plays him, jovial at first with the neighbors and a small boy. He pretends his basement is a jail where all bad boys in the neighborhood will be sent and imprisoned there. However as time goes on, he is torn apart by the realization that his actions killed Larry and his "brothers" in the service thereby killing all his sons. Beth Goldman delivers a powerful performance as the deluded Kate Keller who has to believe that Larry is still alive. If she lets go of this belief then her world be shattered by knowing Joe killed him. Beth gives Kate the strength to stand up to Joe and anyone else who threatens her viewpoint. Beth mesmerizes the audience in this role, running the gamut of emotions while doing so. She has a poignant speech about a dream about Larry in Act 1 and a gut wrenching scene with Chris later in the show. Another stunning performance is by Michael Gebrayel as Chris. This character is the idealistic son who believes the best of everyone until his world is shattered by the realization of his father's guilt in his brother's death. Michael as Chris' argument with his father becomes a physical battle which leaves him in tears as does the final shocking scene with his mother. Michael's interactions with Frank and Beth are terrific and he leaves the audience in tears at its poignancy.

Megan DeSimone plays Ann Deever, Chris' fiancee. She tries to be happy go lucky during most of the show until the final scene where she reveals the contents of Larry's final letter to her and puts the blame on the guilty party. She and Michael have wonderful chemistry together. Aaron Jaros plays Ann's brother, George who returns home after a visit with their father in prison. He plays the angry young man who wants to expose Joe's guilt to the others but they choose to ignore him. Aaron keeps the anger boiling inside him at times, showing how George is digesting the Keller family's interactions with him. He delivers a topnotch performance in this part and makes the most of his time on stage. Rounding out the cast as the neighbors of the Keller family are Bruce Church as the well meaning but discontented Doctor Baylis who has an eye for the ladies and knows the family secret, Janet Schmidt as his bitchy, back biting wife, Sue who constantly nags him and secretly hates Chris and his supposedly ideal family, (she has a marvelous argument scene with Ann in Act 2.), Joe LaGreca as the spacey, astrology loving haberdasher, Frank Lubey and Maggie Nichols Canniff as his not too bright baby-making wife, Lydia who can't tell one plug from another on her kitchen appliances and also dated George in the past. Maggie who was married last February is expecting her first baby in June. Last but not least is Stephen Saba as Bert, the energetic neighbor boy who thinks Joe is a detective and squeals on another boy for swearing. So for a look back at a Tony Award winning show of the past, be sure to catch the electrifying and riveting "All My Sons" at MMAS before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"All My Sons" (10 - 19 January)
NEW ENGLAND REPERTORY
@ 377 North Main Street, MANSFIELD MA
1(508)339-2822

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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