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All My Sons

[The following review appeared in Variety the week of October 16th.]

In choosing to begin his tenure with Arthur Miller's first Broadway hit, new Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC) artistic director Kent Thompson is not only paying homage to one of America's greatest playwrights, but to Miller's vision of an America that lives up to its ideals—a vision that is consistent with the ambitious plans that Thompson has laid out for the DCTC in his New Vision New Voices program (see related story).

As the lights come up on the in-the-round theatre, a trumpet reports—Is it an anthem for the passing of a creed in eclipse, or a reveille to awaken a family and citizenry living in denial?

Photo of Rachel Fowler as Ann Deever and Mike Hartman as Joe Keller
Rachel Fowler as Ann
Deever and Mike Hartman
as Joe Keller
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Under the enveloping boughs of poplars that stretch across the ceiling, amid the serenity of Bill Forrester's bucolic set, on late summer's Sunday morning in a backyard at the outskirts of an American town just a couple of years after World War II, Mike Hartman as Joe Keller, holds court with his family and neighbors, deftly concocting a contradictory disposition of healthy cynicism and avuncular wisdom toward all he surveys.

Yet there, to one side, like a nagging question, lies the broken trunk and withering branches of an apple tree planted in memory of Keller's eldest son, Larry, a pilot presumed dead at sea in an air battle three years before.

Photo of Jeanne Paulsen as Kate Keller and David Furr as Chris Keller
Jeanne Paulsen as Kate Keller
and David Furr as Chris Keller
Photo: Terry Shapiro
In a compelling performance both transcendent in its faith and haunting in its despair, Jeanne Paulsen, as Kate Keller, looms over the proceedings much like the ghost of her son that she holds at bay with the promise of his unlikely reappearance.

Letting Miller's nearly 60-year old setting speak for itself, director Bruce K. Sevy, conjures the publicly polite, personally repressed post-war personalities that ignore what the freshly fallen sapling begs to ask—the nagging question of Joe's complicity in failing aircraft and crew deaths, including that of his own son; obviously presaging present events, when earnings per share drive corporate scandals, no-bid military contracts, and complaints of inferior equipment or the altogether lack thereof for American troops, Miller continues to speak volumes.

"Where do you live, where have you come from? ... Is that as far as your mind can see, the business? Don't you have a country? Don't you live in the world? You're not even an animal, no animal kills his own, what are you?" he asks through the Keller's living son, Chris.

David Furr, as Chris, gleans the best in Joe and Kate to deliver a finely-crafted portrait of geniality and idealism, and Rachel Fowler, as Ann Deever, escapes the curse of her character's good looks with a generous and forgiving portrayal that exhibits the depth of the young playwright's writing. Supporting performances demand equal allegiance from the audience.

In giving his inaugural voice to Miller's searing questions, a.d. Thompson clearly means to address that fallen apple tree, and all "for which it stands."

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning drama, All My Sons, runs through November 5th. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows

 

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