WESTON >> When "All My Sons" opened on Broadway in 1947, America was still recovering from World War II. Everyone knew someone who had lost a husband, a brother, a father or a son. Playwright Arthur Miller's tragic play of two families ripped apart by a wartime event was immediate and visceral to audiences, winning the first ever Tony Award for Best Play.
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company concludes its season on the main stage with a powerful revival of this American classic. Miller peopled his story with flawed human beings who aspired to something better. Its broader themes, in the words of Director Mary Robinson, remain "unfortunately timely."
"All My Sons" is set just outside of Columbus, Ohio, in the front yard of the home of the Keller family. Patriarch Joe Keller is the owner of a manufacturing plant that during wartime turned out cylinder heads for P-40 airplanes but now builds parts for new refrigerators. His son Chris returned home after serving in the war and now stands to inherit the business. Joe's wife, Kate, refuses to acknowledge that their other son, Larry, a pilot declared missing in action some three years before, is dead.
The action of the play begins with the anticipated visit from New York of Ann Deever, Larry's girlfriend. Chris has corresponded with Ann and hopes to propose. Ann's visit, and the later visit of her brother, George, re-open wounds never fully healed.
In the play, it was the women who proved most prescient. Molly Regan commanded the stage with a gripping, multi-layered portrayal as Kate Keller, who steadfastly insisted that her family remained intact. As Ann, Shannon Marie Sullivan held her ground when challenged by Kate and balanced Ann's eagerness for a new life with Chris against the pull of family history. Both Regan and Sullivan effectively conveyed what was left unsaid.
As Chris Keller, Davy Raphaely allowed last Thursday's preview audience to share his hopes and, subsequently, his anger and shame as to what really happened years before was brought into stark relief. Christopher Kelly's turn as Ann Deever's distraught brother, George, added fuel to the fire without histrionics.
Joe Keller hoped that everything would just work itself out. David Wohl's passive characterization of this ordinary, weak man highlighted how tempting it can be to look the other way. Wohl's staccato rendering of Joe's lines, rendered in an accent that did not hail from the Midwest, sometimes distracted.
Tim Rush, Gabriel Vaughn, Elizabeth Morton, Piper Goodeve and Django Grace rounded out the talented ten-person ensemble.
Classic plays such as "All My Sons" are not just to be read in schools but to be performed before a live audience. "All My Sons" is serious drama for serious theatregoers who care about universal themes communicated not with platitudes but through richly drawn characters in a compelling story. Weston's production should not be missed.
Performances of "All My Sons" continue at the Weston Playhouse through September 4. For ticket information, call the WPTC box office at 802-824-5288 or visit its website at www.westonplayhouse.org.