Everyman Theatre offers compelling revival of Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons'
Keller, grippingly portrayed by Carl Schurr in Everyman Theatre’s sterling production of this still-searing work from 1947, is supremely confident he can explain how defective aircraft parts left his factory and led to loss of life. Besides, he was officially exonerated.
He has lived his lie so boldly and thoroughly that it doesn’t really occur to him that the truth could ever emerge. Why should it? The war is over; so is the guilt. Everybody did things they shouldn’t have during those dark years, didn’t they?
Set in an unspecified American town, the play has hardly lost its relevance, certainly not in the age of Halliburton and BP, and its ability to touch the senses remains undiminished. Even those who know this work well may find themselves startled anew by how much of a gut-punch this tragedy can still deliver.
Miller keenly understood what brings families together, what drives them apart, and why it all matters. Everyman artistic director Vincent Lancisi Director is very much at home dealing with such familial issues, and his unforced, insightful directorial touch draws from the cast — most of them from the company's own family of resident artists — performances fully alive with nuance.
Schurr’s sureness as an actor enables him to reveal every facet of Keller’s volatile character as the center of gravity keeps shifting beneath him — the actor’s eyes convey as much as any of his lines. Most importantly, Schurr also finds in Keller the ruggedly appealing qualities that help to explain the loyalty of the man’s family, the affection of a neighborhood kid.
As Chris, the son who came back from the war and joined his father’s business, Clinton Brandhagen reveals
Deborah Hazlett shines as Keller’s wife, Kate, who accepts her husband as steadfastly as she refuses to accept the likelihood that their other son Larry, missing in action three years earlier, is dead. Hazlett taps deftly into Kate’s strange mix of weariness, superstition and confidence.
Beth Hylton brings a touching vulnerability to the role of Ann, who arrives at the Keller home as a double threat — she was Larry’s girlfriend and now the object of Chris’s affection; her father is still in prison for his part in the scandal over the aviation equipment. Adding to the tension is the appearance of Ann’s brother, George. That character's rapid jump from rage to jovial nostalgia and back again is not the most persuasive behavioral pattern in the play, but Tim Getman puts it across with considerable skill.
The Kellers’ colorful neighbors are vibrantly portrayed by Drew Kopas (Frank), Jjana Valentiner (Lydia), Bruce Randolph Nelsonm (Dr. Bayliss) and Megan Anderson (Sue).
Daniel Ettinger’s set design is richly atmospheric and gently lit by Andrew Griffin. David Burdick’s costumes provide another refined visual layer to the staging, often playing off the teal tones of the Keller home with complementing shades — red, orange, brown — that help to reflect the way that all the lives, even those of the neighbors, are connected to the central moral crisis. Only Joe does not fit neatly into the prevailing color scheme, and, in the final scene, his dark suit sets him starkly apart from the others, portending his isolated fate.
This season, Everyman celebrates its 20th year. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of patrons rank the affecting revival of “All My Sons” among the best efforts of those two decades. The production reminds you why you love theater, reconfirms what an involving and haunting art form it is -- and how a first-rate company can make it doubly so.
PHOTO (by Stan Barouh) COURTESY OF EVERYMAN THEATRE