TimeLine’s “ALL MY SONS”: A Classic Production of A Classic

September 14, 2009 at 5:16 pm 2 comments

REVIEW:

“ALL MY SONS”

TimeLine Theatre

Written by Arthur Miller

Directed by Kimberly Senior

Through October 4th (tickets available here)

3 Stars (out of 4)

allmysons2The shattering of the American Dream present in Arthur Miller’s opus All My Sons shook a few feathers when it premiered in 1947.  In fact, it landed him in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Over fifty years later, war profiteering is still very much alive in the American conscious.  Kimberly Senior’s straightforward production for TimeLine Theatre Company, currently taking place at the Greenhouse Theatre Center, proves that the play can still be rattling.

All My Sons, like most of Miller’s dramatic triumphs, centers on the American Family living in the American Heartland.  The patriarch Joe (Roger Mueller) owns a local business that manufactured the cylinder heads for airplane engines during World War II.  He shares the business with his son Chris (Erik Hellman), who is the only one of two sons to return from fighting.  It’s slowly revealed that the business had been under investigation for sending out faulty equipment that caused the death of 21 servicemen.  As a result, Joe’s partner was imprisoned and Joe’s family was openly ostracized by the community, although by the time of the play Joe has resumed card games with his neighbors.

allmysons1Although the plot centers on the father and son dynamic, in this production, however, it is the women roles that push the play to a visceral level.  Our hearts splinter as we watch the matriarch, Kate (masterfully portrayed by Janet Ulrich Brooks), repeatedly deny the inevitable fact that her MIA son, Larry, must be dead.  Her delusions have a heavy effect on Ann (Cora Vander Broek), Larry’s former fiancée and Chris’s current.  She also happens to be the daughter of the Joe’s jailed partner.  War, business, and romance shred the family to pieces.allmysons3

It’s unfortunate that the men’s performances can never quite reach the level of their female counterparts.  Mueller can pull off the Arthur Miller dad, it comes off very naturally.  Hellman’s Chris seems very comfortable as well; he can externalize the moral conflict of the character beautifully.  However, when the flame is supposed to explode between the two characters, neither can really cut it.  The stakes aren’t quite there.  A few people comment on Chris surprising ability to be a hard killer in the war; we never get to see this side.  The scenes between Broek and Brooks have way more palpable passion.  Not that Hellman or Mueller don’t have their moments of brilliance.  This production is the first time ever where a character mentions the title of the play (Joe in this case) and it had a powerful emotional impact on me, instead of me just getting excited they said the title.

allmysons4All the design aspects are solid and support the story.  Jack Magaw’s setting is simple yet recreates Middle America exquisitely.  Lindsey Pate’s ‘40’s era costumes and Charles Cooper’s lighting transport us to a familiar time and place, even if we’re not baby boomers.

If this had been the international premier of the play, Senior would’ve been sitting on a fantastic, world-class production.  But the play is a classic in the American canon, and this uncomplicated manifestation feels a little stale.  If more risks were taken, the production could’ve been a measure for all future All My Sons.  With the very notable exception of the strong emphasis on the women’s roles, however, the production doesn’t do much to illuminate the text.  Being able to witness a director play around and refresh a text is one of the major reasons we still go and see classic plays in a live theatre, or else we’d just add it to our Netflix queue.

–Barry Eitel

allmysons5More information can be found at www.timelinetheatre.com.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gareth  |  September 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    BOOYAH!

    your old pal,
    gareth

    Reply
  • 2. Kelli Garner  |  October 3, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Great site, how do I subscribe?

    Reply

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