Theatre in Review

Monday, 22 January 2018 07:58

Review: All My Sons at Court Theatre

Whenever things get hot in America, Arthur Miller comes back in vogue. It's hard to fathom what he would think of today's world though. Court Theatre features Miller's first hit play 'All My Sons' . Directed by Charles Newell, this provocative new production is vibrant and exceedingly well acted.

'All My Sons' first appeared on Broadway in 1947, establishing Arthur Miller as a major playwright. Though considered among his best, there's an amount of melodrama here that later Miller works would shed. In this dark play, he examines the moral and psychological effects of WWII on ordinary Americans.

John Judd plays Joe Keller, the good-guy neighbor type who has just arrived home from prison. He's been acquitted of manufacturing faulty airplane parts that caused plane crashes in WWII. His partner remains in jail having accepted all responsibility. His adult son Chris, played by Timothy Edward Kane survived the war while his brother Larry did not. On an ordinary summer day Chris invites Larry's former fiance and daughter of Joe's business partner, Annie (Heidi Kettenring) for a visit. Chris' mother Kate (Kate Collins) cannot reconcile that Larry is dead and is slowly unraveling.

Newell takes this script in an interesting direction. The central conflict is Joe, a normal guy with a huge moral dilemma. "I know you're no worse than most men, but I thought you were better." Miller writes. It's through Kate Collins that Newell puts the emphasizes on the women's narrative of this play though. Kate's dialogue swings from reality and delusion so rapidly. Collins' interpretation has an eerie Blanche DuBois quality to it. This is also a story about a woman losing her grip in a time when life was supposed to be cheerful.

Heidi Kettenring brings Annie to the foreground in this version. With 'All My Sons' Miller wanted to show how aspects of the war effected all parts of America. Many women were left widows. Social constructs made finding love more challenging for women. Kettenring captures every scene she's in. Her portrayal of a lonely woman with few options is haunting.

Newell's production is artful. The staging is vivid and unique. When every theater company is offering Arthur Miller, it's cool to see how these works are being reinterprated to appeal to a new generation. For some, two and a half hours of classic American theater sounds like a school field trip. Newell's production proves that there's always a new way to see a play.

Through February 11th at Court Theatre. 5535 S Ellis Ave. 773-753-4472

Published in Theatre in Review
Monday, 07 December 2015 21:26

Review: Redtwist's "Incident at Vichy"

In a cramped police station in Southern France, a handful of men argue about why they were picked up for questioning. During the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, Germany left Vichy to be governed by France. This didn't exempt the zone from mass deportation of Jews living on false papers. Arthur Miller's "Incident at Vichy" explores the dark themes of a region living in fear, holding a mirror up to our own time.

 

With direction by Ian Frank, Redtwist gives a faithful production of Miller's under-produced 1964 one-act. Redtwist's best asset from show to show is the intimacy of their performance space. For a claustrophobic play like this, a better space couldn't be found. There are almost as many cast members as audience members and when the room is full, there's an inherent sense of panic.

 

White men arguing is pretty often seen in mid-century theatre. Usually it's a vehicle for expressing the playwright's world views. "Incident at Vichy" is a play of its time period. That's not to say Arthur Miller's words aren't chillingly relevant. As each character in question slowly divulges the reasons they may be sent away, they prioritize their own right to life over their neighbor's. In those passionate monologues, Miller cuts right to the heart of human nature, which is sometimes primal.

 

With a large cast and a short play, it's unusual to have so much character development. The ensemble distinguishes themselves well. The play hangs on a stand-out performance by Jeremy Trager as Von Berg (an Austrian nobleman). His character is the only one who seems to express empathy and guilt about what's happening to the people around him. David Giannini and Tim Parker balance out the cast as Bayard and Leduc and turn in strong performances as well.

 

"Incident at Vichy" is a story of people living in fear. It's a cautionary tale of what can happen when people are apathetic. With all this history, it's shocking in America that some would-be politicians are touting mass deportations of minority groups. To that end, Miller's play has never been more essential.

 

Through January 10th at Redtwist Theatre. 1044 W Bryn Mawr. 773-728-75329

 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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