Theatre Mirror Reviews - "All My Sons"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"All My Sons"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

River Rep, the professional New York repertory theatre company's second show of their 19th season at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse is the searing drama "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller who passed away on February 10, 2005. The play takes place in 1947 and is an impassioned wartime saga of the Kellers, a midwestern 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 the sale of defective parts to the army. When twenty-one pilots die as a result, he is arrested and tried but 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 he is alive. When their other war hero son, Chris returns home and announces his engagement to his brother's old girlfriend, Ann (Deever's daughter) his mother is distraught. Further tension mounts as the fabric of the family is torn. Suspicion arises about a possible cover-up of who was really responsible for shipping the defective parts and leads to an inevitable tragic conclusion. Director Warren Kelley leads his 10 member cast in this electrifying and emotionally charged drama splendidly evoking tears as its human drama touches the audience's hearts, winning them a standing ovation at the curtain call.

The first act tells the events of the past which lead to the confrontation and argument action in the second act. The show begins with a tree knocked over by strong wind which foreshadows the tragic events to come. Warren builds the tension of the show into a perfect climax where the son realizes his father's guilt. The ending of the two scenes in the second act are emotionally draining with the son in the father's arms in the first and in the mother's arms in the second. The gorgeous two story house with four windows, screen door and porch is designed by Nicole Coppinger. The lighting designed by Susan Kincade depicts the different times of the day, afternoon in August then twilight and 2 AM, the next day. Period costumes are by Steven Cozzi and the sound is by Adam Elander. Stage manager Rychard Curtiss keeps everything running smoothly during the show. Bravo to Warren for balancing the comic and dramatic moments perfectly all night long.

Evan Thompson commands the stage as Joe Keller, who no matter how hard he tries to cover his tracks, the past comes back to haunt him, over and over again. He is jovial at first with his interactions with his neighbors and a small boy, but as time goes on, his is torn apart at the realization that his actions killed Larry and the other pilots, making Joe into the murderer of all his sons. Joan Shepard, Evan's real life wife, plays the deluded Kate Keller who has to believe Larry is still alive or her world will fall apart by knowing Joe killed him. Joan does a great job and gives Kate the strength she needs to stand up to Joe and anyone who threatens her view of things. Stephen Kunken is wonderful as the idealistic son, Chris who believes the best about everyone until his world is shattered by realizing his father's responsibility in the death of the pilots and his very own brother. His interactions with Evan and Joan are right on the money and leave the audience in tears at their poignancy. Jenn Thompson plays Ann Deever, Chris' fiancee. She tries to be happy go lucky during most of the show until the final scene where she reveals Larry's last letter to her to his family. The letter resolves what happened to Larry and puts the blame on the guilty party. Jenn handles this role with ease, getting the emotions of this girl across wonderfully. Owen Thompson, Jenn's real life brother, plays Ann's lawyer brother in this show. He makes a gang buster entrance in Act 2, promising to expose Joe's guilt which he does but the Kellers and Ann choose to ignore it. Owen makes the most of his time on stage as George.

Rounding out this cast as the neighbors of the Keller family are J.H. Torrance Downes as the well meaning but discontented Doctor Bayliss, Elisabeth Rodgers as his nagging, bitchy meanspirited wife, Sue, Chris Haulter as the dippy astrology loving haberdasher, Frank and Elizabeth Munn as his not too bright, baby making wife, Lydia. Last but not least is the energetic, ball of fire Adam Heavens, an eighth grader, who plays Bert, a young boy who thinking Joe is a detective, squeals on another boy swearing. So for a look back on an award winning show from the past which is still relevant in today's war torn world, be sure to catch "All My Sons" at the airconditioned Ivoryton Playhouse.

"All My Sons" (13 - 23 July)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, IVORYTON CT
1 (860) 767-2984

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide