Review Roundup: Annette Bening And Tracy Letts Star In ALL MY SONS - What Did The Critics Think?
See reviews for the latest Broadway revival of Arthur MIller's 'All My Sons'
All My Sons stars Annette Bening as "Kate Keller" and Tracy Letts as "Joe Keller." The cast also includes Benjamin Walker as "Chris Keller," Francesca Carpanini as "Ann Deever," Hampton Fluker as "George Deever," Michael Hayden as "Dr. Jim Bayliss," Jenni Barber as "Lydia Lubey," Alexander Bello as "Bert," Monte Green as "Bert," Nehal Joshi as "Frank Lubey," Chinasa Ogbuagu as "Sue Bayliss."
Award-winning actors Annette Bening and Tracy Letts return to Broadway in the play that launched Arthur Miller as the moral voice of the American Theater. In the aftermath of WWII, the Keller family struggles to stay intact and to fight for their future when a long-hidden secret threatens to emerge-forcing them to reckon with greed, denial, repentance and post-war disenchantment across generations.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Jesse Green, The New York Times: Ms. Bening goes deepest of the four leads in exploring the muck at the bottom of her character's personality. She also has terrific technique, both vocal and otherwise. But the opacity of the production overall means we still can't read her with any clarity, and the play acquires a weird wobble at its core.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Contrasting with video designer Jeff Sugg's horrific clips of doomed airplanes plummeting to the ground, O'Brien's production is decidedly low-key. Letts' Joe is an unremarkable everyman, happy to retire comfortably. Bening's Kate, living in an era when wives don't have much choice in the matter, determinedly stands by her husband's claims of innocence, knowing that her personal future is dependent on his. Walker's Chris, whose wartime experiences may have instilled a greater empathy for others, is an earnest voice of emerging ideals.
Matt Windman, amNY: Directed by three-time Tony winner Jack O'Brien ("Hairspray," "Henry IV," "The Coast of Utopia"), this revival gets to the heart of Miller's writing and brings out increasingly intense and layered performances, making for highly compelling and confrontational theater. Period costumes, an extensive exterior set design and video projections between scenes further enrich a fine production.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: But O'Brien creates two interracial families for the Miller drama, set in an otherwise realistically depicted 1947, without comment. Since "All My Sons" is an indictment of capitalism, it's odd to have a byproduct of that economic system as practiced in the United States simply ignored here. This revival acts as if racism didn't exist among these kinds of characters at that time, which isn't that far away from Joe Keller's attitude regarding his crime.
Charles McNulty, The Los Angeles Times: O'Brien's production includes actors of color in important roles. Hampton Fluker plays George and Chinasa Ogbuagu plays Sue Bayliss, a neighbor with sharp opinions on the Keller family's self-deceiving ways. The casting, neither colorblind nor thematic, is part of a theatrical tradition that has become more or less standard. If the company seems unsettled, the issue isn't race but style. O'Brien's ensemble mixes realism with contemporary classicism in a catch-as-catch-can way. It's the acting equivalent of a mixed salad.
Frank Rizzo, Variety: Don't be fooled by the placid backyard setting, neighborly small talk and father-son joviality at the start of the Roundabout Theatre Company's blistering revival of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. There are plenty of secrets, resentments and disillusionments ahead, poised to rip this sunny Middle Americana facade to shreds.
Greg Evans, Deadline: A muddled casting controversy and the resignation of a prominent director no doubt diverted some early public and press attention from the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, but this Broadwayproduction, opening tonight, can handle whatever comes its way. When all's said and done, Jack O'Brien's knock-you-from-behind staging is as powerful and sturdy as Miller's post-war classic itself. And in a shattering performance that adds yet another layer to her quietly remarkable career, Annette Bening finds grace notes in the role of the grieving Gold Star mother that brings the character to vivid, brutalized life.
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: Aplay about the rancid heart of the American dream, Arthur Miller's early tragedy, All My Sons, is rebirthed on Broadway, looking like it never left. Thrillingly acted - with performances that threaten, tantalizingly, to go over the top, but stop just short - Jack O'Brien's production for the Roundabout is a vigorous anatomy lesson, a show about how guilt and transgression can rot a family from the inside, spoiling everything they touch.
Sara Holdren, Vulture: The stormy climax of All My Sons still packs a wallop, but the road to it is long, painfully dated, and-though we don't like to admit to basic failings in our canonized playwrights-marked by some truly frustrating logical potholes. And in director Jack O'Brien's production, the play's glaring issues go unexamined, swathed in a suburban summertime scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt that's so artificially verdant it feels cloying. Of course, the point of the play is that unpleasant things are going to go down in this Norman Rockwell-esque backyard, but there are also unpleasant things going on in the fabric of Miller's play, and these are being summarily avoided-even added to-as the production reverentially, almost complacently, presents All My Sons as an unquestioned masterpiece.
Helen Shaw, Time Out New York: First Bening combusts, then Walker goes up like a Roman candle, and ultimately Letts collapses in an avalanche of dust. There are other strong elements in these final sequences, particularly Hampton Fluker's performance as the weirdly childlike George-who has been deeply wronged by the Kellers but who wants to forgive them anyway, because it would let him pretend to be innocent again. His dazzled eyes reflect the central trio, staggered by their charisma and blinded to any flaws. Does All My Sons have failings? Never you mind. All you'll be able to remember is a family of giants falling one after the other, like a stand of redwoods crashing down.
Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: There is the pleasure, for the first half anyway, of Arthur Miller's All My Sons-which opened Monday night on Broadway (at the American Airlines Theatre, to June 23)-of well-executed theatrical convention; the reassurance of a revival done traditionally and done right.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Reminiscent of Greek tragedy in its depiction of its central character's inexorable fall from grace, All My Sons can feel overly mechanistic at times. Some scenes, such as George's confrontation with Joe, the man he blames for his father's imprisonment, don't quite ring true in their quicksilver emotional shifts, and the play's symbolism can be heavy-handed (a downed tree is not just a downed tree). But the classically structured drama nonetheless still exerts a tremendous raw power that is fully realized in this rendering.
Barbara Schuler, Newsday: This play is done a lot - What community theater hasn't trotted it out at least once? - so audiences generally know the story. But this cast breathes so much life into Miller's characters it feels like you're watching for the first time. Tracy Letts is compelling as Joe, a man who hides well his heavy guilt. As Kate, Annette Bening is a poignant mix of strength and despair, fighting off a grief she refuses to acknowledge. But it's Benjamin Walker as the tortured son Chris who most commands attention whenever he's on stage, so apparent is the fury he's brewing.
David Finkle, New York Stage Review: In a season where straight plays-often relegated to second-class Broadway status-have been in unusual number, this All My Sons goes a far way, or further, to reminding audiences what perceptive, inspired, engaged playwriting is. If anyone is leaving the Roundabout's American Airlines with a blithe ho-hum, I'll turn in my critic's spurs. If anyone is exiting the auditorium having seen the drama for the first time and wondering what all the fuss over Miller is about, I'm here to recommend a psychotherapist expert in healing emotional blockage.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: As for how this production judges Joe, it's hard to ignore that Letts bears an eerie resemblance to capitalist warmonger and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Yet even as Joe is careening toward his inevitable fall, he never loses our sympathy. It seems selfish to want to see Letts do more and more stage roles when he could be writing more plays like August: Osage County and Mary Page Marlowe. But he's so spectacular in All My Sons-even in the simple, speechless act of reading a letter-that you can't help but imagine him (and Bening) in, oh, say...Death of a Salesman. Hey, a theatergoer can dream.
Mark Shenton, New York Theatre Guide: A thrilling cast rise to the challenge of making this entirely believable, fraught and eventually scorching. As matriarch Kate, Annette Bening is devastating as well as devastated: a woman clinging to hope, despite knowing in her heart that it is hopeless. And Tracy Letts -- who is also a playwright who wrote the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County -- is equally superb as a man consumed by his secrets.
Jessica Derschowitz, EW: It all comes together in a stellar, harrowing production that reinforces why Miller's works still endure so many decades later: The world is filled with hardships and horrors, but they can also be lurking in your own backyard.
Chris Jones, New York Daily News: Letts' performance likely will strike some as odd or disconnected - I find it perfectly in tune with the moment, and there is much to like about Bening's work, too. Kate Keller is a tricky part - she can come off as merely an enabler or a kook. Bening comes up with something much richer, as does Walker, who is quite moving and, well, sad. It will take another generation or two to fix things, you think.