Review: ALL MY SONS at Road Less Traveled Theater

A Fine Drama, Intensely Acted

By: Nov. 17, 2023
Review: ALL MY SONS at Road Less Traveled Theater

How an American dream ends up as an American tragedy pretty much sums up the gut wrenching production of ALL MY SONS now playing at Road Less Traveled Theater. Arthur Miller's 1947 classic immerses the audience is post World War II Americana, where the pangs of the war are still felt and a quest for happiness and prosperity could be felt in every suburban neighborhood.

Celebrating it's 20th Anniversary, Road Less Traveled has firmly established itself in the  Buffalo theatre community, presenting finely acted and directed plays, all with top notch production values. Artistic Director Scott Behrend has wanted to direct Miller's play for years, and in doing so he has a dream cast to work with. Buffalo native Sean Cullen has returned home to play Joe Keller, the patriarch of the play. His extensive Broadway, film and TV credits will make him recognizable to many.

Early on we learn that Joe's company supplied faulty airplane cylinders for the military, and his business partner went to jail, talking the fall for the error that took 21 soldiers lives. Joe is exonerated, but his partner is not.  Joe is re-establishing himself with the neighbors and working again at his own company, along side his son Chris (played by Nick Stevens).

Joe's  other son, Larry, is a missing soldier who is  presumed dead. But Joe's  wife Kate, (beautifully played by Lisa Vitrano) still holds out hope for Larry's return. At the outset of the play a storm fells the tree planted in memory of Larry, and looms on the stage throughout as a symbol of broken dreams.

Miller has created a cast of characters that are closely knit, but all unraveling at the same time. Chris sends for Larry's fiance Ann to come visit, in the hopes of marrying her himself. But Ann is the daughter of the jailed partner, so tensions run deep.

Cullen is a large man, with a booming voice and commanding stage presence. His inner turmoil is palpable, all the while he exudes confidence-- a trait which is mandatory in order to convince everyone that he indeed was never guilty of the factory error. And he fully  succeeds in his portrayal of the tortured father, husband and friend. Cullen's fine acting is firmly based in a commitment to  be successful and provide for his son and wife, at all costs.

Vitrano is petite, yet headstrong in her convictions. She gives a heartbreaking performance as the mother who yearns for her son's return, but holds a deep secret.

Nick Stevens gives a finely nuanced portrayal of the son left living, having been in the war himself. He wants Ann as his wife, despite his mother's objections. The many emotions necessary for this role are handled by Stevens with controlled poise. By the second act, his emotional confrontation with his Cullen was riveting. The  desperation for  truth between the father and son was intense.

Lisette DeJesus is lovely as Ann, the young woman caught in the middle of mourning her fiance and her desire to marry his brother. She is no wall flower, but rather a strong woman who does not tolerate fools.  Her brother George makes a sudden appearance, and the Keller house is turned upside down. Greg Howze's as George has a magnetic personality lights up the stage, as he accuses Joe of lying and being fully responsible for his father's jail sentence. The inner angst  and intensity that Howze brings to the role leads the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions.

The neighbors all contribute to the mood where an attempt for a Utopian life actually leads down a dystopian path. Young Dr Bayliss and wife Sue, a former nurse, are played by Bob Grabowski and Sara Kow-Falcone. They should be happy, but live a life as a lie, as each would much rather be doing something else and not living next door to the Kellers. Frank and Lydia Lubey ( played by Johnny Rowe and Maria Ta) live a  quiet, yet unfulfilled life with all of their children. He having escaped the draft by one year and she wishing that she had married Chris instead of Frank.

Review: ALL MY SONS at Road Less Traveled Theater

Miller's language may sound stilted to today's audiences, with it's formality of addressing a parent as "mother" and  statements like "I musn't do that." But language helps anchor the action in 1946, as well as the fine set and costume design by Collin Ranney and the perfect period hair styles by Mariangela Mercurio.

Behrend allows the  excellent ensemble to fully immerse themselves in their characters, never shying away from the raw drama that smolders and ignites by the final scene.  Heartbreak surrounds the entire cast, and  prevails as a family who outwardly has everything is torn apart. 

All MY SONS plays at Road Less Traveled Theater through December 10, 2023. Contact roadlesstraveledproductions.org for more information
 



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