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all my sons : a great play gets a great production

Arthur Miller, who wrote this play, once commented that a playwright’s reward “is to know that by one’s invention a mass of strangers has been publicly transfixed.”

If that be so, then he would have been very well-rewarded by the audience’s reaction at the opening night of his play’s performance, for at the play’s conclusion there was a brief moment of absolute silence, as the the meaning of the previous scenes came home to each person, followed immediately by a totally deserved, rapturous applause.

For ALL MY SONS is a play for the ages, a modern tragedy equal  to Shakespeare’s best. Like all true tragedies, the hero of the play, in this case not a king or a prince, but an ordinary man, is brought down before the audience’s eyes by a fatal flaw, here that of trying to achieve the American Dream whatever the cost. Faced with the stark conflict between family loyalty and social responsibility, a choice which  can affect anyone, he makes his pick, which results, at one and the same time, in a dramatic climax, the devastating realisation of why the play is called ALL MY SONS, and  uplifting acts of redemption.

The plot is complex, with many layers, and requires attention being given to every line spoken. For example, the hero’s passing observation at the beginning of the first scene, that “I ignore what I got to ignore”, becomes truly meaningful only at the end of the play. Moreover, two of the characters, upon whom the entire play is based, are never seen!

In short, this play, first performed 76 years ago, is a work of genius. Nevertheless, being written for the theatre, it still requires a cast that can fully reveal its qualities to an audience. The cast of this production does this wonderfully well. Each actor is at one with his or her role and, no doubt thanks to the work of dialect coach, Benjamin Pursur, speak with a credible, yet unobtrusive. American accents.

First among equals are Greg Poppleton, who plays the father, Kyle Barrett who plays his son, Kath Gordon, who plays his wife, and Bridget Haberecht, who plays the pivotal role of being both the the potential bride of the son and the fiancee of his presumably dead brother and whose visit to the family home is the catalyst for all that then eventuates in the play.

Added to this outstanding cast is  sure-footed direction, as well as excellent set, sound and lighting design.

There were a few first – night irregularities. Some movements between the characters were stilted, a few pauses were too long, one on one conversations were, very occasionally, hard to hear, and one unfortunate error occurred in the final scene, when a key sentence was spoken by the father with his back to the audience, so that it was difficult to hear and its impact was thereby diminished. These matters though, overall, did not lessen the play’s impact, and will undoubtedly be remedied in future performances.

This play,  ALL MY SONS, is a classic. It deserves the best of performances. With this production by the New Theatre, it gets it!

Production photography by Chris Lundie.

Review by Dr Ron Desiatnik


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