The high concept production of Arthur Miller’s morality drama All My Sons directed by Simon McBurney is a sight to behold. Burney is one of Europe’s most innovative theater makers, and his production with a Brech-like representational style, while always arresting, does little to aid his sterling cast. Commanding performances by John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson, along with a game Katie Holmes, making her Broadway debut, are all upstaged by McBurney’s cinematic flourishes. You will either love it or hate it. While we felt the production detracted from the heart of Miller’s drama and certainly was a big handicap for the actors, the approach was always fascinating, even as it took us away from the emotional impact.
The morality tale was Miller’s first successful play winning him the Tony Award in 1947 and playing 328 performances. He would follow it later with his masterworks Death of a Salesman (1949), and A View from the Bridge (1955) in a long career that included film and ill fated marriage to Marilyn Monroe, which he wrote about in After the Fall (1964).
Like all of his finest achievements All My Sons visits a similar theme about the impact of people’s actions on those around them and beyond. His works accumulate in the details with finely layered characters and situations. The power of All My Sons is the visceral unfolding of the play’s conflicts to its harrowing final moment.
Miller’s drama concerns a manufacturer Joe Keller (John Lithgow), who knowingly shipped faulty airplane parts to the Army during World War II, leading to the death of 21 pilots, with his own son Larry possibly one the casualties. Keller managed to clear himself while his partner, Herbert Deever, went to jail. When their other son Chris (Patrick Wilson) decides to marry Deever’s daughter, Ann (Katie Holmes), her brother George (Christian Camargo) arrives setting off a catalytic chain of events. Ann was engaged to Larry before going missing in battle and she holds a most unsettling secret.
McBurney underscores the scenes with melodramatic music and adds unnecessary cinematic flourishes that hinder the action creating an impressive staging that seems superfluous. But give him points for his clever casting.
By: Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dan’s Papers
All My Sons opened on October 16, 2008 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street between Broadway and Eight Avenues for a limited engagement through Sunday January 11, 2009. Tickets are available at www.Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239- 6200