Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

All My Sons
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol

Michael Gaston and Marsha Mason
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
The first hour of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, at Hartford Stage through May 5, is excellent in its exposition of plot. The second portion of this twentieth century masterwork is highly arresting, tense drama which powerfully addresses morality through theme and story.

Joe Keller (Michael Gaston) opens the play in the backyard of his home, somewhere in this country in August of 1946. A gust of wind has tipped over a tree that honored Larry, the son of Kate (Marsha Mason) and Joe. Frank Lubey (Dan Whelton) comes around as will Dr. Jim Bayliss (Godfrey Simmons Jr.).

Designer Riw Rakkulchon has impressively created a large, looming exterior of the Keller house and, upon occasion, the interior is lit. Ann (Fiona Robberson), oftentimes called Annie Denver, has spent the night there. Larry, who disappeared, used to be her boyfriend.

Pivotal Chris Keller (Ben Katz), who is Joe and Kate's son, appears and tells his father that he asked Ann there because the two of them plan to get married. The conversation ends and Kate comes out and talks of visualizing Larry. Miller's plot reveals that Steve Deever, Annie's father, and Joe were in business working at an aircraft factory, and defective engines shipped from that factory caused twenty-one servicemen to die. Steve Denver was found to be at fault for sending out the flawed parts. Kate clings to her hope that Larry is still alive but Joe knows otherwise. Chris is in love with Annie, wants to have a family, yet works for Joe. Kate still is certain that Annie will marry Larry, whom she imagines will return.

Other supporting characters include Jim's wife Sue Bayliss (Yadira Correa), Lydia Lubey (Caitlin Zoz), who is married to Frank, a boy named Bert (Malachy Glanovsky) and, most important of all, George Deever (Reece Dos Santos). He is Ann's brother and his entrance, quite late in the show, heightens fraught anxieties even further.

All My Sons debuted on Broadway in 1947. Ultimately, it focuses upon one's ethical choice and juxtaposes evil and good. It is set just after World War II ended, as Americans looked to family renewal and rebirth. Some turned a blind eye to war's consequences and sought happiness which had been so elusive. Kate, either delusional or suffering memory loss, figuratively clings to the felled tree in the yard. Annie, Chris and Joe accept that Larry has passed on and they live in the present with expectations of a better future.

Melia Bensussen directs the current presentation with specificity and honors the author's structure by building, through increments, toward the staggering final section of the play. Perhaps the conclusion is excruciating for some to take in but, on the other hand, both the writing and embodiment of Miller's characters are exacting and enviable.

Michael Gaston, bringing multiple New York City stage credits as well as many, many more on film and TV, is precise and disciplined as he fully inhabits his role as Joe Keller. Marsha Mason, a familiar star cast as Kate Keller, fully realizes the complicated, distressed woman. Actress Fiona Robberson, as Ann Deever, is gripping. Trained at Juilliard and NYU, this appealing performer captures Annie's dilemma, wears her anxiety on her face as she visibly reacts to others' dialogue and runs through a wide-ranging scale of emotions. It's a distinctive and sometimes transfixing turn of acting. The entire ensemble of actors is most convincing.

The air has a heavy feel throughout this potent Arthur Miller play, one which will cause you to squirm in your seat before it nearly takes your breath away. It is a detailed, stressful, ever engrossing tragedy which makes for sterling live performance.

All My Sons runs through May 5, 2024, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford CT. For tickets and information, please call 860-527-5151 or visit