Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

All My Sons
New Jewish Theatre
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's reviews of Wedding Band and Molly Sweeney

Kristen Joy Lintvedt, Greg Johnston, Jayson Heil,
and Amy Loui

Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Baseball umpires (and Supreme Court justices) like to say they "only call balls and strikes": putting the blame on either the pitcher or the hitter, when neither side advances. But nobody has to tell you when it's a "hit," when the wood smacks against the horsehide. You just hear the crack of the bat, and the whole stadium makes that same shallow gasp, and you try to focus on the dash of light that once had been a baseball. The point is, they gave me a ticket for opening night of the great All My Sons by Arthur Miller at the New Jewish Theatre (NJT) in St. Louis. And I basically watched the whole thing get knocked out of the park by director Gary Wayne Barker. So now I feel obliged to call a hit a hit.

But that's how purely American it is, like baseball, even now, nearly 80 years after WWII, in a show that's set maybe a year or two before "Dewey Defeats Truman." Peace and prosperity at last, after all the sacrifice of the Great Depression, and the immeasurable ugliness of war. The story focuses on Joe Keller, played by Greg Johnston in what looks like a career-crowning performance, and his funny, long-suffering wife Kate, played by the brilliant Amy Loui, who once again reinvents the tradition of Method acting for a new day. Together they must ask themselves if it all was worth it: to finally stand atop a whole new empire, and gaze down in victory. And the whole show fits us all as snugly as a straightjacket.

More deadly than Death of a Salesman, more sprawling and more multi-dimensional than The Crucible, All My Sons is Miller's King Lear in suburbia, his "other, other" blockbuster play. It centers on a 60-ish industrial tycoon who's finagled his way out of prison after a wartime scandal that killed 21 American fighter pilots. And somehow, mysteriously, it's also connected to his older son, missing in action for two years.

So Joe Keller is out of prison, with that "defective engine cylinder" scandal behind him, because he may (or may not) have put the blame on an old friend and co-worker, and next door neighbor, Steve Deever. But each successive scene in this nearly two and a half-hour play (with intermission) seems to introduce a new "plague of Egypt" into Joe's life: a psychological plague, a famine of forgiveness, and a pestilence of self-righteousness, poured into his golden years. All because his old friend is still in the clink.

There's even a Moses in this NJT production of the near-Biblical epic, the excellent actor Joel Moses playing George Deever, the son of the old friend who's come back to wrestle the blame back onto the tycoon's shoulders, to set his own father free. George is crushed and anguished, and (like the Keller family he grew up next door to) astonished at how fast it's all coming apart. And Mr. Moses shows great nuance here.

Anyway, imagine getting hit in the face by Mike Tyson fifty or sixty times in a row, and that pretty much explains the entire construction of this show, till every one of them goes down. (I always thought I'd hate boxing, but now I'm not so sure.)

Even if you've seen it before, you may have forgotten all the twists and turns. But I take a lot of notes, and now I have thirteen pages of nearly unreadable scrawl recounting the self-deception and betrayal and revelation of it all. Screaming seems perfectly natural (and even wholesome) in the final scenes of this All My Sons.

And of course, the Kellers' surviving son Chris has everything at stake as well. He's played by Jayson Heil, unrecognizable from his recent appearances at Stray Dog Theatre in Saturday Night Fever and The Mousetrap. In this theatrical testament, Chris and his father will go up a metaphorical mountain of grievances to make their own sacrifice. Except this time it's Isaac leading Abraham.

Further raising the stakes, Chris has just gotten engaged to George's sister Ann, played by Kristen Joy Lintvedt, who's thrown off her Cinderella rags from December's Into the Woods, performed in this same theater. (Her character in this play had been intended for Chris's older brother, who apparently died in the war.) And, in spite of her looks, she gets jammed down into the same meat grinder of the plot as everyone else, in an overwhelming display.

The unbeatable (and admirably multi-racial) cast also includes Zahria Moore as the waspish next door neighbor, along with Joshua Mayfield as her husband, the wise and affable local doctor. Summer Baer is delightful, representing the girl George Deever could have had, if only he'd been more "practical." He went away, though, and she married the whimsical Frank, played by the entertaining Riley Capp (who is constantly upstaged here, perhaps symbolically). And Shane Rose is an adorable scamp as the little boy down the street, Bert.

In the end you realize that, somehow, every night is opening night for a great play like this. A decades' long wormhole of human identity links us up again and again, with the first-night audience at the Coronet Theatre (now the Eugene O'Neill) in the New York City of January of 1947. When that first production won Tony Awards for Best Author for Miller, and Best Director for Elia Kazan.

And now I'm just another critic, in a very long line of them, giving you an unequivocally high recommendation to please go and see it. It puts the "good old days" on stage under a powerful new microscope. In the process it also affirms the new postwar era of theater, as a new empire was just settling in for an epoch or two.

All My Sons, produced by the New Jewish Theatre, runs through April 7, 2024, at the Wool Studio Theatre, #2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis MO. For tickets and information, please visit

Joe Keller: Greg Johnston
Kate Keller: Amy Loui*
Chris Keller: Jayson Heil
Ann Deever: Kristen Joy Lintvedt
George Deever: Joel Moses
Dr. Jim Bayless: Joshua Mayfield
Sue Bayliss: Zahria Moore
Frank Lubey: Riley Capp
Lydia Lubey: Summer Baer
Bert: Shane Rose

Production Staff
Director: Gary Wayne Barker
Scenic Designer: C. Otis Sweezey
Lighting Designer: Denisse Chavez
Costume Designer: Michele Friedman Siler
Sound Designer: Amanda Werre
Wig Designer: Dennis Milam Bensie
Production Stage Manager: Kathryn Ballard*
Assistant Stage Manager: MJ Probst
Wardrobe Supervisor: Abby Pastorello
Scenic Artist: Cameron Tesson
Props Supervisor: Katie Orr
Associate Sound Designer: Katelyn Gillette
Master Electrician: Tony Anselmo
Board Operator: Alysa Noelle Murphy
Violence and Intimacy Director: John Wilson
Artistic Director: Rebekah Scallet
Box Office Manager: Hannah Ryan
Technical Director: Laura Skroska
Production Manager: Sean Seifert
Assistant Technical Director: Patrice Nelms
House Manager: Laura Newman

* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association