A troubled play about turbulent times, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was such a powerful indictment of the American Dream when it first appeared on stage in 1947, that its author was suspected of being a Communist.
Although it is a strong drama that raises moral questions worth reflecting on, nowadays, the play wouldn’t send the shock waves to its audience like it did in the ‘40s. Directed by Matthieu Labaudinière, what this production does well is create a kind of bubble. It’s 1946 America, and nothing exists outside of the frontyard that the audience will be faced with for the duration of the play.
The main characters of the play are all members of the Keller family — Joe, the father of the family, who is a successful businessman, his wife Kate and son Chris. There is also another son, Larry, who is only mentioned but never seen, because he disappeared during the war, and is believed by most to be dead.
At first, this may seem like one of those family dramas, where a son’s death has brought about alienation, guilt and denial. However, only Kate seems to be affected, and remains convinced her son will come home.The story soon refocuses on her husband, who has a dark secret that may have caused more deaths than one.
A lot of effort has gone into the production, and it shows. The actors, all nine of them, have worked hard to achieve realism, but some have not succeeded. For instance, it is very surprising to learn from dialogue, towards the end of the play, that Joe Keller is supposed to be over 60 years old. Concordia’s own Oren Lefkowitz plays him as a youthful man, constantly on the move.
On the other hand, some performances leave an impact — Julianna Astorino has the most demanding role, and is quite touching as the deeply distressed Kate. What she nails best is the voice; close your eyes, and you’ll never believe this is a 21st century student speaking.
Stephen Friedrich is also impressive as George Deever, who has come to make shocking revelations about the patriarch of the Keller family.
However, good actors and costumes are not enough in this case to make the play come alive in all of its glory.
Individual performances are convincing, but the actors have close to no chemistry with each other. In a sense, you never feel like they inhabit the same world.
Perhaps such was Ladaudinière’s intention, but then, it defeats Miller’s original purpose. This is a play that slowly, slyly, escalates from jokes to screams and from a personal story to a universal one. In order to be successful, the production needed to touch your heartstrings and make you feel all that was at stake. Unfortunately, that never happened.
If you know people who were part of the cast and crew, be a good friend and see the play. If, however, all you seek is a valid interpretation of Miller’s classic, then set your expectations lower, or simply start looking elsewhere.
All My Sons runs at the McGill Players’ Theatre until Feb. 1
Photos by Adam Banks