Theatre Mirror Reviews - "All My Sons"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"All My Sons"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The final show of The Players 101st season is Arthur Miller's searing drama "All My Sons". The show takes place in 1947 and is an impassioned wartime saga about the Kellers, a Midwestern family struggling with their secrets and their 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, 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 he is still alive after three years. When their other war hero son, Chris returns home, announces his engagement to his brother's old 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 John Mutter cast these ten roles perfectly in this electrifying and emotionally charged drama. Their splendid portrayals elicit tears as its human drama touches the audience's hearts, making it a must see show this autumn season.

The first act tells 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. John builds the tension of the show into a perfect climax when the son realizes his father's guilt. He has wonderful picture postcard moments at the end of each act which astound the audience. The son breaks down crying after confronting his father in the second act and sobs uncontrollably with his mother at the close of the show. The gorgeous two story house and porch is designed by Ed Rondeau. The lighting design by Ruth Fagan depicts the different times of the day, afternoon in August then twilight and 2 AM the next day. The period style costumes are by Bonnie DerManelian. The stage manager is Kathy Riker who keeps things running smoothly with her assistant stage manager Eva-Maria Coffey and they keep the ten member cast on their toes all night long as they are rewarded with a standing ovation at curtain call.

Richard Wilbur does a wonderful job as Joe, who no matter how hard the character tries to cover his tracks, the past comes back to haunt him, over and over again. Richard makes Joe, jovial at first when he talks to his neighbors as well as with a small boy. He pretends that his basement is a jail where all the bad kids in the neighborhood will be imprisoned. However as time goes on, he is torn apart by the realization that his actions killed Larry and his "brothers" in the service, the other pilots, making Joe into the murderer of all his sons. I directed Richard in "Rumors" for Community Players in 1993. Catherine Fox delivers a powerhouse performance as the deluded Kate Keller who has to believe that Larry is still alive or her world will fall apart by knowing Joe killed him. She gives Kate the strength to stand up to Joe and anyone who threatens her view of things. Catherine is splendid as she mesmerizes the audience in this role, running the gamut of emotions while doing so. She has a poignant speech about her dream of Larry in Act 1 and a gut wrenching scene with Chris later in the show. I directed her as Florence in "The Female Odd Couple" in 1994 and know how talented she is. Another fantastic performance is by Christopher Ferreira who plays Chris, the idealistic son who believes the best about everyone until his world is shattered by the realization of his father's responsibility in his brother's death. Chris' argument with the father becomes a physical battle which leaves him in tears as does the final shocking scene with Cathy. His interactions with Richard and Catherine are right on the money and leaves the audience in tears at their poignancy. Emily Lewis 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 last letter to her. The letter resolves what happened to Larry and puts the blame on the guilty party. Emily interacts with the other characters wonderfully revealing her strong emotions to the audience. She is a powerful actress who I last reviewed as Abby, the Irish maid in "The Late Christopher Bean" at 2nd Story Theatre. Michael Zola plays Ann's lawyer brother, George who returns home after a visit with their father in prison. He plays the angry young man who promises to expose Joe's guilt which he eventually does but the Kellers and Ann chose to ignore it. Michael delivers a topnotch performance and makes the most of his time onstage as George.

Rounding out the cast as the neighbors of the Keller family are W. Grant Willis as the well meaning but discontented doctor Bayliss who has an eye for the ladies and knows the family secret, Marcia Layden who I directed as Regina in "The Little Foxes" as his bitchy, back biting, shrew wife Sue who constantly nags him and secretly despises Chris and his supposedly ideal family, (she has a dynamic argument scene with Emily in Act 2), David Adams Murphy as the dippy astrology loving haberdasher, Frank Lubey and Samantha Wellins Gaus as his not too bright, baby making wife, Lydia who can't tell one plug from the other on her kitchen appliances and dated George years ago. Last but not least is the 12 year old, energetic, Peyton Robb Buteau (Michael Zola's stepson) who plays Bert, a young boy who thinks Joe is a detective and squeals on another boy swearing. So for a look back on an award winning show from the past, be sure to catch this topnotch production of "All My Sons" before time runs out. To join this theatre club just give Lydia a call.

"All My Sons" (17 - 26 September)
@ Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401)274-0590

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide