Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Production of ALL MY SONS is Explosive, Gripping, and Tragic

The Arthur Miller Classic Runs Through April 7th in The J's Wool Studio Theatre

By: Mar. 22, 2024
Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Production of ALL MY SONS is Explosive, Gripping, and Tragic
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Gary Wayne Barker has directed an explosive production of Arthur Miller’s play ALL MY SONS to open the 26th season at The New Jewish Theatre. ALL MY SONS is regarded as one of Miller’s best works and was his first commercial success on Broadway. Set at the end of World War II, it tells the story of the Keller family whose eldest son has not returned home from the war and is presumed dead. Joe and Kate Keller are harboring dark secrets about their fractured relationship with their former neighbor and business partner, the incarcerated and unseen Steve Deever. Director Barker and his set designer, C. Otis Sweezey, place the audience smack in the backyard of the Keller household for an up-close view of the fireworks that are about to ensue while Joe and Kate’s life continues to unravel.Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Production of ALL MY SONS is Explosive, Gripping, and Tragic

Chris Keller (Jayson Heil), the younger son of Joe (Greg Johnston) and Kate (Amy Loui), has returned home from the war to join his father’s business and eventually take over. Chris is a dutiful thirty-something adult child with a strict moral compass. His idealistic view of the world includes the unshakable belief that his parents are mostly good, honest, and truthful people. Chris experiences a seismic shift in perception when he is forced to face the fact that his parents are deeply flawed, imperfect people.  

Heil, Johnston, and Loui are outstanding as the members of the Keller family. Their simmering performances build to a boil in this pressure cooker filled drama before the lid blows sky high. The tension and intensity they bring to each of their roles is tangible. 

Chris invites his dead brother's girlfriend, Ann, to their home with whom he now has a relationship and plans to marry. Heil’s expression of his character’s anxiety is palpable. He shows irritation and waning patience with his mother who refuses to acknowledge that his brother is dead. Initially, he and his father are on the same page until the secrets his parents have been protecting are revealed. The combustibility in his performance is staggering as he expresses his disbelief and disgust with his parents. Heil’s performance is mesmerizing. 

Amy Loui is magnificent as the grieving mother Kate. The character’s profound grief and denial is present in Loui’s pain ridden facial expressions and gestures. Loui plays Kate as broken and defenseless, but she is not wilting under pressure. Kate has backbone and resolve, and Loui’s performance creates a character with many complex layers. 

Greg Johston’s work with both Heil and Loui is phenomenal as the man whose world is crumbling as his secrets are exposed. Johston’s performance takes Joe from gruff refutation to complete vulnerability as his son confronts him about his lies. Heil and Johson’s final scene creates scorching, searing drama. Both men exhibit threadbare emotion with raw unfiltered portrayals.Review: The New Jewish Theatre's Production of ALL MY SONS is Explosive, Gripping, and Tragic  

The authentic performances by Heil, Johnon and Loui are matched by the other members of this remarkable cast. Kristen Joy Lintvedt is subtly divine as Chris’ intended fiancé Ann Deever. She presents a soft and demure exterior. Her tone is respectful toward Kate and Joe Keller whom she has known since childhood. However, Ann has come of age and Lintvedt portrays her as resolute and strong. She knows she is there to become engaged, and she will not be deterred. Joel Moses is spectacular as Ann’s brother George. Moses creates an indelible impression as the powder keg who is about to blow up the Keller’s lies.  

The remainder of the cast, Joshua Mayfield, Zahria Moore, Riley Capp, Summer Baer, and Shane Ross give adept performances as the Keller’s neighbors. Kudos to 5th grader Shane Ross in his first professional production. Ross holds his own among this skilled professional troupe with a believable performance in two scenes early in the first act. 

Barker has collaborated with his actors and technical crew to tell a gripping and tragic story. Sweezey’s thrust set design fills the space ending right at the audience’s feet on all three sides of the stage. The intimate space created powerful proxemics for storytelling. Barker and his actors seize the opportunity and deliver a sensational production.  

Amada Werre’s sound design complimented Denisse Chavez’s lighting design during the opening scene’s thunderstorm. Michele Friedman Siler’s costume design perfectly expressed the play’s late 1940’s setting. 

The New Jewish Theatre picked up where they left off last season with a superior effort resulting in stellar storytelling. This well-acted production of ALL MY SONS is intense and riveting drama. The New Jewish Theatre’s production of ALL MY SONS plays through April 7th in The J’s Wool Studio Theatre on the campus of the JCCA in Creve Couer. Click the link below to purchase tickets.