Friday, October 17, 2008

All My Sons (The SOB Review)

All My Sons (The SOB Review) - Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, New York, NY

** (out of ****)

There's an insidious little secret in Simon McBurney's revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

No, it's not that Joe Keller (John Lithgow) may or may not have purposely sold faulty plane parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Instead, it's that McBurney has layered on the histrionics so high that the brilliance of Miller's original script is largely obscured and only peeks through near the end.

All natural elements of surprise are removed, thanks in no small part to the sound design offered by Christopher Shutt and Carolyn Downing. Their underlying music betrays the production with its impending sense of doom.

With the staging itself, McBurney seems to be going for an Our Town motif. Yet it screams small town theatricality (think "Waiting For Guffman") or even satire. It's exacerbated whenever its female leads, Dianne Wiest (as Joe's wife Kate) and Katie Holmes (as Ann, the fiancée of Joe and Kate's MIA son), take to the stage.

Where the women reign supreme in the current revival of The Seagull, it's the men of All My Sons who are left to do the heavy lifting. Lithgow and Patrick Wilson as the Kellers' son Chris offer affecting, nuanced performances. Sad to say, there's nothing subtle about Wiest's surprisingly over-the-top performance. As for Holmes, well, she's a decent enough actress, but when Ann should be demure, Holmes is full-throttled and stays in the same gear throughout.

All My Sons still ranks as one of my all-time favorite plays. Maybe someday, we'll have another chance to see a production that just lets the story unfold more naturally.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 12 January, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to see the show 2days before closing. My anticipation was high. Alas! The show seemed forced to me. I saw only a few moments of brilliance from the actor who played the Dr.Maybe the director left him be b/c he was a character? Maybe teh leads lost the fight in them to challenge the staginess that the director asked for? Maybe Holmes's shriekiness just plain wore them out? I felt guilty-these are great actors, in a great play. This is my husband's birthday present to me. On line to the Ladies room a women in her 60's turned to me and said, " What did you think of it?" I told her, "It was wonderful." and it was... teh dinner at ESCA, the exictement of NYC and the live theater but...She must have realized I had no conviction and then she said " It was so cerebral" I came out of the stall and told her how I really felt. We both were relieved that someone else thought the same way, it's hard not to get caught up in the hoopla of stars and live theater but truth is truth.

At 12 January, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, Thanks so much for sharing your truth. I can completely appreciate your vantage point in wanting to like the show, because I also wanted to like it.

Interestingly enough, nearly everyone I know who's seen the show shares my basic assessment. But you'd never know that from all the reviews, would you?!


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