The Cardinal Stage Company opens their sixth season with Arthur Miller’s award winning post-WWII play All My Sons. The play has the feel of a Greek drama, complete with a buried secret, its gradual revelation, and a tragic ending that results in reconciliation and order. The production is part of Indiana University’s Themester 2011: Making War: Making Peace.
All My Sons is a potent production, directed by the company’s founder Randy White. It pits a cynical father against an optimistic, if disappointed, son. The father, Joe Keller, is masterfully played by Ken Farrell as an avuncular charmer with an edge. Joe was a war profiteer. Military contracts built his business from a small shop to a large postwar enterprise. In a cynical moment, Joe says the war was simply a matter of nickels and dimes.
Joe’s son Chris was a decorated officer in the war. He’s portrayed with equal fullness by Tim Pyles. Chris is back at home, working dutifully in the business that his father built. During the war, Chris saw men rise to heights of heroism and brotherhood. He’s disappointed that none of this seems to have carried over into peacetime.
A Grieving Mother
At the center of the family is the family’s matriarch, Kate Keller (played by Maureen Gallagher). While both Joe and Chris have moved on, Kate is still stuck in the war. Her older son Larry has been missing in action for more than three years, and she’s still waiting for him to come home. Kate is the tortured possessor of the play’s buried secret. While Joe and Chris have accepted Larry’s death, she holds on to the belief that he will return with crazed determination.
Strong Scenes, Telling Moments
In a production with many strong scenes and telling moments, my favorite was between Kate and a former neighbor boy, George, played with a fascinating, slightly manic distraction by Mike McNamara. George has returned fully determined to blow open the secret. Kate, who’s been deeply depressed and manic, rises to the occasion. She embraces, calms, charms and reduces the vengeful George to the dutiful little boy who used to love to come over for her grape drink. It’s quite a scene, in quite an amazing piece of theatre.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.