WRITER’S SKILL CAPTURED IN COMPELLING DRAMA
ALL MY SONS
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Susan Wilson
at Circa One, Wellington
From 2 Jun 2012 to 7 Jul 2012
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 4 Jun 2012
While better known for his later plays Death Of A Salesman and The Crucible, Arthur Miller's first major work, All My Sons, just opened at Circa Theatre, is no less a compelling piece of drama. It focuses on various issues associated with a post WWII American family.
Joe Keller (Jeffrey Thomas) is a self made man, retired and living for today on the profits of his business. His wife Kate (Emma Kinane) lives in the past when her eldest son was alive before he went missing in action, believing that one day he will return.
Their other son Chris (Richard Dey), running the family business, looks to the future when he will be independent and married to Ann (Jessica Robinson). But Ann is the daughter of their previous neighbour who was also Joe's business partner but who took the rap for some business irregularities. She was also once in love with the missing son.
Ann has been away for three years but when Chris brings her home one weekend tensions and incriminations that have simmering below the surface boil over, exacerbated by the arrival of Ann's brother George (Martyn Wood) until they end in violent and dramatic fashion.
Love, loyalty and guilt and the conflict between personal and public responsibility are all at the heart of this exceptionally well written play as the consequences of the past unfold to effect the actions of the future.
Set in small town America in 1947, Susan Wilson's production beautifully captures the sense of time and place with this production. The realistic set of a house and backyard with symbolic weeping willows down the sides, the mood lighting, the costumes and make-up and the hair styles, all convey perfectly a sense of style of the period, although some of the family wealth could have been spent on painting the house. And the mood music playing under the dialogue was unnecessary and distracting.
Although the opening exposition takes some time to get going, once the cast are in their stride they all, without exception, get to the play's heart to bring it alive.
In particular Emma Kinane, as the mother Kate, brings both a warmth and fragility to the character, only just holding it together as she clings onto the hope that her missing son is still alive all the while being bombarded from all sides to face up to the reality of the situation.
And Richard Dey as son Chris conveys a wonderful sense of high principles and morality but is not without a chink in his armour when it comes to the crunch.
That much of the play resonates with what is happening in the world today, even though it was written over sixty years ago, is the mark of a truly great writer which this production does justice to and is well worth seeing.
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