BWW Review: Riveting ALL MY SONS at Warehouse Theatre
It opens with a storm that knocks down a tree at its roots. By evening's end, the same thing has happened to a family.
Arthur Miller's classic All My Sons opened this past Friday in a transcendent new production at the Warehouse Theatre. Filled with powerful performances, some disarming humor, and a gut-punching finale, this show is a must-see.
Chip Egan stars as Joe Keller, a simple man who runs a local factory. The time is just a few years after World War II, and Joe's son, Chris (Torsten Johnson), is being groomed as the heir to the family business. Chris has summoned his former neighbor, Ann (Jennifer Webb), back to town so that he can propose marriage. Years ago, Ann was the girlfriend of Chris' brother, Larry. But Larry never came home from the war and Chris always harbored deep feelings for Ann - feelings that seem to be reciprocated.
Chris' mother Kate (Mimi Wyche), however, has not given up on her lost son, refusing to believe he might be dead. This, naturally, leads to some serious complications - as well as some shattering revelations.
Director Blake White put together a terrific ensemble for a beautifully human - and startlingly sensory - production. Upon entering The Warehouse space, you're greeted with a background sound of crickets as you gaze at designer Shannon Roberts' detailed set. With the aid of Tony Penna's exceptional lighting design and Marc Gwinn's enveloping sound design, the audience is dropped into the Keller's world, witnessing at close hand the unraveling of what could be your own neighbor.
Chip Egan and Mimi Wyche are simply amazing as the Kellers. Their performances are perfectly modulated, playing off of every other cast member as well as each other, presenting what feels like "the truth" with every line and gesture. These are two remarkable performers (last seen together as George and Martha in The Warehouse production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) at the top of their game.
Torsten Johnson also does stellar work as Chris. He's warm and likable and idealistic and completely unprepared for the harsh realities that transform his world. As Ann, Jennifer Webb brings a youthful exuberance that helps mask her character's inner turmoil.
The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, fully inhabiting their roles and bringing knowing touches to their personalities. Brock Koonce is gently sympathetic as the Kellers' neighbor Jim, while Peggy Trecker White, as Jim's wife, Sue, hits just the right balance of surface friendliness and inner shrew. Maury Reed and Prentiss Standridge bring a needed lightness to their roles as the Kellers' other neighbors, Frank and Lydia. And Burke McLain brings a strong presence to the pivotal role of George, who finally becomes the force that knocks over the Kellers' delicate house of cards.
The Pulitzer Prize winning script is truly a study in duality, of truth and illusion, of laughter and love and living with our own flaws. Director Blake White deserves enormous credit for bringing the play and all its themes to vivid life.
Finally, a rather significant disclaimer: my son, Shaw Shurley, plays the small role of Bert, a neighbor boy who helps "police" the neighborhood under Joe Keller's direction. As Bert, Shaw is, of course, brilliant. But so is the entire production.