BWW Review: ALL MY SONS at Purple Rose Theatre Company Is A Dramatic Exploration Of Love And Loss
All My Sons, playing through June 1st at The Purple Rose Theatre Company, is a dramatic and intense adaptation of the Tony-Award winning play. The play follows the story of Joe Keller, a working man who desperately wants to secure the business he spent so many years constructing. He is ready to hand it down to his son, Chris. Joe's wife Kate is still waiting for their eldest son Larry to return from war, determined that he is alive and will marry the former neighbor girl from next door, Ann, who happens to be the daughter of Joe's former business partner. To complicate this family drama, Chris and Ann are in love and want to get married. All My Sons shows a post-war American family in a spiral of lies, greed, love, and loss.
The Purple Rose Theatre Company's adaption of this classic drama is intense and heart-wrenching at times. On several occasions as an audience member, I felt as if I was living in the Keller's world. The realism and transparency throughout this production makes this show intriguing to watch.
Richard McWilliams, playing the role of Joe Keller, made this very challenging role all his own. A family man with a big secret, McWilliams perfectly envelopes the love that Keller has for his son and wife. His diction is precise, and his conversational tone throughout a lot of the show makes this character believable as a soft-spoken husband and father who provides for his family. However, there is a distinct character change in Joe Keller that comes out in the second act of the show. As a past event comes back to haunt him, his character suddenly shifts to a nervous and angry man who is afraid of how the past will affect both him and his family's future. In the realm of classic American theatre, the role of Joe Keller is one of the most challenging. However, McWilliams makes it look easy. McWilliams' preparation for this role is evident during several big moments during the play. In arguably one of the most dramatic scenes in the play, McWilliams slowly falls to the ground, hugging the lawn outside of his house as his own son screams at him. McWilliams yells aloud as tears roll down his face, making the actions and reactions of his character very real. Simply put, McWilliams is a strong leading man in this show.
Equally as talented is Michelle Mountain, playing the role of Joe's wife, Kate Keller. Kate Keller loves her husband and has stuck by his side through thick and thin. Kate is optimistic that her second son Larry, who has died in the war, is still alive and will be home any day. She waits on the front porch of the Keller house every night longing for him to return home, even when the ones closest to her tell her she is crazy. At many points during the show, she is optimistic. Her soft vocal tones and quaint mannerisms throughout both acts help to make this character trait evident to the audience. Much like her husband Joe, she has multiple dramatic moments during the show where Mountain's acting talents truly shine. Audiences will be left with a feeling of helplessness while they watch the final scene of the play unfold, hearing Mountain vocalizing the pain she is feeling as she crawls across the front lawn of the Keller home in an act of desperation. This is a climatic moment in the play, and Mountains' strong acting choices make this scene that much more dramatic.
Another standout in this show is Ryan Black, playing the role of Chris Keller. As Joe Keller's son, Chris has a heavy burden to bear. Constantly plagued by the thought of having to take over the family business that his father has spent his entire life building up, Black's character choices allow him to portray the true spite that Chris Keller feels very accurately. The one thing that makes Chris happier than anything else in life is a girl; his deceased brother's ex-girlfriend, Ann. Black proves that through his seriousness and underlying spite for his father, Chris Keller has a soft and passionate side when he is with Ann. Black's intensity in the final act of the show is second-to-none, and he does this very challenging role Justice.
The Purple Rose Theatre Company's production of All My sons is riveting, intense, and fresh. I would see this show several times-it's just that good. Purple Rose succeeds in making a classic Arthur Miller piece interesting and engaging. The staging is perfect, the casting is excellent, and the story is still timely. All My Sons receives a five out of five stars in my book.
The rest of the cast includes Caitlin Cavannaugh (Ann Deever), David Bendena (George Deever), Tom Whalen (Dr. Jim Bayliss), Susan Craves (Sue Bayliss), Rusty Mewha (Frank Lubey), Lauren Knox (Lydia Lubey), Preston M. Bueche (Bert), and Olivia Goosman (Bert).
All My Sons is running now through June 1st at the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan. Ticket prices range from $23 to $47 with special discounts for students, seniors, teachers, members of the military and groups (12+). For more information or to make reservations call (734) 433-7673 or go to www.purplerosetheatre.org.
*Show information courtesy of The Purple Rose Theatre Company.