Theatre Raleigh’s current production concerns a successful business that knowingly sold defective products, pitting ethical behavior against profits at any cost.
But the play wasn’t written in this decade and it isn’t about airbags or Wall Street. Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” premiered in 1947, proving good plays are universal, particularly in this company’s highly professional hands.
During World War II, Joe Keller and business partner Steve Deever made airplane engine cylinder heads, a high-demand item. A cracked batch was allowed through, and later traced to 21 pilot deaths. The two men went to jail but Joe was later exonerated.
A year after the war, Joe is dealing with his unstable wife Kate, who still believes her son Larry is alive, despite his plane being missing for three years. Their idealistic son Chris wants to marry Steve’s daughter, Ann, who used to be Larry’s girl, but Kate thinks she should save herself for Larry’s return. When Ann’s brother George suddenly flies in to visit the Keller family, suspicions and unease arise about his reasons, ultimately changing everyone’s lives.
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Not as well known as Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” the play’s multiple shocks and revelations can still draw gasps and tears, as it did Wednesday under Michael Berry’s fierce but sympathetic direction. Berry builds the confrontation scenes to pit-in-the-stomach intensities, alleviating them with warm family humor and moving love scenes.
Mitch Poulos fully embodies Joe’s initial cockiness and later desperation, attempting to justify his actions. Charlie Brady ably portrays Chris’ conflicting emotions as his moral convictions and filial love are challenged. His scenes with Meagan Mackenzie Chieppor’s engaging Ann have wonderful chemistry.
But the show belongs to Julie Fishell’s riveting Kate, her distracted ramblings and sudden mood swings masking an iron will and feisty self-preservation. Fishell’s remarkable range is on full display.
The uniformly strong cast includes Estes Tarver’s bitter, regretful George; Brian Yandle’s goofy next-door neighbor Frank; Lindsey Gautier’s Lydia, Frank’s ever-cheerful wife; and Seth Schenall’s likable Bert, the clever neighborhood kid. Also notable are Jade Arnold’s Jim, the doctor next door who aspires to more than money, and Hazel S. Edmond’s Sue, his wife, who despises ideals that don’t provide steady income.
Chris Bernier’s half realistic, half abstract backyard setting, along with Thomas Mauney’s moody lighting and Allison White’s 1940s costuming, finish out this must-see staging.
What: “All My Sons,” presented by Theatre Raleigh
Where: Kennedy Theatre, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East South St., Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. June 9-11, 15-18; 2 p.m. June 11, 18; 3 p.m. June 12, 19
Tickets: $30 (seniors $28)
Info: 919-832- 9997 or theatreraleigh.com