BWW Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Shatters the American Dream at The City Theatre in Austin, TX
Beginning with small talk near a white picket fence, and dramatically escalating as the Keller family's skeletons reveal themselves, Arthur Miller examines the aftermath of the war within the home front. Currently running at The City Theatre, ALL MY SONS tackles the moral code of a small family and the ability to look the other way. Joe Keller (played by Rick Smith), the patriarch of the family, reads his newspaper and drinks his coffee, examining the fallen tree in his front yard - the memorial tree planted for his "missing" son, Larry. The audience meets Kate Keller (played by Tracy Hurd), Joe's stubborn wife holding onto the hope her son Larry, who has been missing in action for three years after fighting in WWII, will come home any minute. Despite Kate's pining for her son Larry, Chris Keller (played by Sean Gordon), the surviving son from the war, has arrived home and invited a guest. Originally Larry's girlfriend, Ann Deever (played by Katrin Otterness) arrives with different intentions than Kate Keller would approve of. Given the domestic drama of Ann's love fitting within the Keller clan, the audience learns Joe Keller worked with Ann's father Steve Deever at their manufacturing plant during the war. As the drama unfolds between the moral love triangle of brothers, the moral conundrum between good and evil is examined with Steve's current imprisonment and Joe's delightful morning coffee, free to brew on his unearned freedom. Initially peering into the lives of the Kellers, reveal a content family with friendly neighbors and patriotic, hard-working values. However, as Arthur Miller shines a critical light on their moral denial, the part the Kellers collectively played in the death of 21 World War II pilots becomes shockingly more apparent.
The war at home in ALL MY SONS is conveyed nicely at The City Theatre thanks to their cast and production team. Given the dramatic premise and the slow burning of the plot, the actors portraying the complicated characters in ALL MY SONS have their work cut out for them. Painting Joe Keller with layers of humanity, Rick Smith invites the audience into his character's life with open arms and smiles through his deniability. Smith's ability to normalize and rationalize through the words written for Joe Keller captures the essence of a man running from his own reflection. Sean Gordon brought a strong patriotic presence and passion to his role depicting Chris Keller - a young war veteran representing the naive American public dealing with crimes that remain unpunished. Reminding audiences of the missing family member and representing unreasonable non-acceptance to her husband's crime, Tracy Hurd illustrates a woman on the brink of collapse in her role as Kate Keller. Hurd plays stubborn intolerance with a side of lunacy well, but offers little variation throughout the show. Kate, along with the performance of Ann by Katrin Otterness, were not well-rounded enough to represent the humanity within their characters respective experiences. Hurd and Otterness brought high-stakes to the table through building the emotional drama to overcome their individual obstacles. However, with little change in motivation during the show, their performances grew stale with Little Room for their characters to go any higher. Otterness, although she fit the part aesthetically, her overall awkward delivery within the drama took away from the action as opposed to slowly building with her cast mates.
The setting of the scene detailing the picturesque Keller home within happy suburban America, was executed very well by the production staff. The set design was filled with character and presented this family as a proud working-class representative in post World War II. The direction within the space for the most part worked, however during pinnacle scenes and transitions of characters, the direction of the show seemed haphazard. Sticking to the written text as opposed to finding activities or motivation for characters to enter and exit created confusing momentum onstage that interrupted the flow of the action. In the climax of the show, the direction of the actors, and the actors' execution of this critical moment was forced. Taking away from the audience's opportunity to marinate in the tragedy they witnessed, I left the theatre needing more of a solid conclusion.
ALL MY SONS is written by the beloved American playwright Arthur Miller, who challenged the status quo in the 1940s and resonates within American families to this day. The attachment and heartbreak that unfolds during ALL MY SONS examines the "American dream" our domestic populous continues to buy into. Swap warheads with "fake news" and insert political dissent between family members, and audiences will walk away reflecting on their own experiences. Contemplating the consequences of tolerating crimes and who really is at fault. Now playing at The City Theatre, ALL MY SONS examines the American Dream to its core - bringing to light the atrocities we all are capable of in the face of consequence.
ALL MY SONS
BY: Arthur Miller
THE CITY THEATRE
May 11 - June 3. Thursday - Saturday 8:00 pm. Sunday 3:00 pm. The City Theatre. 3823 Airport Blvd. Austin 78722.
General Seating $15. Center Row Reserved $20-25. Thursday all seats $10. Tickets at the door $20. Group and student discounts.
Photo Credit: Aleks Ortynski