Thursday, August 12, 2010

M&D presents powerful production of 'All My Sons'

In the wake of a season that has featured “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” M&D Productions takes on another heavyweight of American theater with Arthur Miller's post-World War II domestic drama “All My Sons,” which opens Friday, Aug. 13, at Your Theatre at Willow Common in North Conway, N.H. and is running through Aug. 28.

“All My Sons,” much like Miller's most infamous works “The Crucible” and “Death of a Salesman,” is an incisive indictment of the worst side of America. Joe Keller (Richard Russo), main character of “All My Sons,” represents the dark side of capitalism and the pursuit of the American Dream at any cost.

During World War II, Joe's company manufactured parts for planes going into combat. Something went wrong with one of the orders with tragic results. The action of the play is set three years later with events setting into motion a discussion of whether Joe set his partner up to be a patsy for a mistake he knowingly made simply to make a buck.

The play opens with Joe sitting out in his yard talking with his neighbors (Eric Jordan, Andrew Brosnan, Elaine Kondrat and Janette Kondrat) and his son Chris (Scott Katrycz). The scene is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life: the perfect picture of America.

These early scenes almost play out like a sitcom. They are low key and charming, but soon the cracks within the surface start to show. Joe's wife Kate (Deborah Lyons) is desperately clinging to the idea that Larry, her other son, who remains MIA since the end of the war, is still alive. She goes into hysterics if anyone suggests otherwise.

Kate becomes further unraveled when Ann, (Kate Gustafson) Larry's former sweetheart, Chris' soon-to-be fiancée and the daughter of Joe's partner, comes to town. Things escalate even further when George (Ken Martin), the son of Joe's partner, also shows up.

Director Dennis O'Neil gets extraordinary work out of his cast. Everyone gives naturalistic, unforced performances that flow with the material rather than against it. There's no showboating, scene chewing or overly stagey acting.

It is the material, which reminds why Miller is regarded as one of the great American playwrights, that allows for this realistic approach. The dialogue has an understanding that life isn't as black and white as much of our entertainment makes it out to be.

Even life's darkest moments have moments of lightness and humor and Miller weaves in zingers and moments of whimsy that help both ease and increase the tension at the same time. We get to laugh or smile for a moment, but know that things will ratchet up again quickly.

O'Neil and his cast delicately perform this material and dig deep into themes of morality and responsibility not only to your self, but to humanity as a whole. The play stirs up a lot of raw emotions that the actors are not afraid to take on with unflinching conviction.

This cast is so uniformly strong from the lead roles to the support characters that to spotlight any one or two people would be unfair to whole. This is a true example of a cast working together seamlessly as an ensemble.

The remarkable thing about this play is how fresh, relevant and how perceptive it is. Written only two years after the end of World War II, it is written with insights that seem like they came decades after the war. Miller doesn't use the war in a shameless or exploitive manner, but in a way that accentuates and adds weight to his critique of the American Dream.

M&D's production is a strong piece that builds and builds as the show gets heavier and darker with each new act until it reach a conclusion, that even if you are familiar with, will hit you hard.

For more information and tickets call 662-7591.

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