World War II drama is anything but dated
All My Sons is a powerful play from a previous era that playwright Arthur Miller crafted so beautifully and Palm Beach Drama Works’ J. Barry Lewis directed so tightly that it held attendees on the edges of their seats from start to intermission to finish.
No doubt it helped that all cast members were strong and convincing - singly and in ensemble. Wow! And the production we saw was the dress rehearsal. It can only get better from here.
All My Sons was first produced in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. At first I had reservations about the play being too dated to be relevant to a 21st century audience but I was disabused on that point from the start. In fact, many of the seat -edgers were from the online generation and seemed to have no difficulty being engaged in the drama on stage.
Like all classics, this one transcends space and time and while the day may come when audiences won’t know what a telephone was or how handwritten correspondence was used to develop relationships, I suspect we will always relate to the issues of family dynamics and the good, the bad and the ugly of human thoughts and emotions. Think Shakespeare.
Basically, a family has been torn apart by a father’s concupiscence during World War II and not fully patched back together by the time of the play’s action in 1947. The father’s factory shipped defective plane parts that resulted in the deaths of many American pilots.
Nevertheless, the father avoided the prison sentence that befell his partner and he was back with his family while the other man’s children and friends had abandoned him. In the father’s eyes, everything he did was to provide wealth and stature for his sons. Others, including his wife, and ultimately his sons, saw things differently.
The play raises a number of questions and leaves the audience to decide: What does a man do for his son? Who is his son? Are other men’s sons his responsibility, too? What does a man owe to his sons’ mothers? Daughters? Spouses?
This is a big play but director J. Barry Lewis kept it from being ponderous. All of the actors, were totally believable and played their parts as if they were living them right there on stage – a desirable and not-always achieved goal. Kenneth Tigar as the father, Joe Keller, and Elizabeth Dimon as his wife Kate were incredible. Period.
The rest of the cast could not have been better (Jim Ballard as Chris Keller; Kersti Bryan as Ann Deever; Cliff Burgess as her brother George; Kenneth Kay as Dr. Jim Bayliss; Nanique Gherdian as his wife, Sue; Dave Hyland as Frank Lubey; Margery Lowe as his wife Lydia; and Kaden Cohen as Bert).
The set, the lighting, the sound, the costumes all came together to make this a memorable experience. Plaudits to all.
The new Don & Ann Brown Theatre added to the enjoyment of the play. It appears that every seat in the house is good, better or best and most of them are in the better range. Seats were comfortable, air temperature was consistent, lighting was understated and inviting.
All-in-all a wonderful theater experience everyone should hope to enjoy. If the season continues with this kind of production, the Carbonells should be held here to save travel time for all the awards we can expect this troupe to take home.
The shows run through Dec. 18. Visit PalmBeachDramaWorks.org for more information.