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Stage: All My Sons
<em>All My Sons</em> should resonate with audiences today, but the production is overdone and distracts from the play's themes and the actors' presence.
 

All My Sons
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
New York
(212) 239-6200


**

Let’s get this out of the way,” said Elysa Gardner in USA Today. Katie Holmes’ Broadway debut in All My Sons is neither a disaster nor a revelation. But Mrs. Tom Cruise shows she can hold her own onstage with a cast of seasoned thespians. In this overwrought production of Arthur Miller’s 1947 play, John Lithgow is Joe Keller, a war profiteer whose faulty airplane parts resulted in the deaths of 21 American soldiers. By war’s end he and his wife, played by Dianne Wiest, have lost one son. Another is set to marry the daughter of Keller’s bitter ex–business partner. Holmes proves poised and energetic in the role of this fiancée, and a sensitive director could have made this star-studded ensemble riveting.

Unfortunately, director Simon McBurney turns himself into the center of attention, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. By projecting wartime images and words onto the background, the British director drives home Miller’s themes in obvious ways. He “might as well be downstage center at all times, stealing each and every scene.” Ideas that should have been whispers become shouts. Miller’s play is meant to faintly echo Greek tragedy, but the characters here seem less believable individuals than “puppets of destiny.” There’s even a sort of Greek chorus: When cast members aren’t in a scene, they sit just offstage, observing the action.

Miller’s themes should resonate in today’s economic and political climate, said Clive Barnes in the New York Post. Greed, chicanery, industrial violence—it’s all here. But this staging’s overzealous speechifying makes it feel oddly distant, more like an experiment than a story. The final shouting match between Keller and his son isn’t as emotionally wrenching as it should be. It’s just loud. “In all of this emotional clutter, the finest performance comes from Wiest, a silent pool of grief in a most touching portrayal of woe.”

 

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