Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

All My Sons
Curio Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule


Paul E Kuhn, Trice Baldwin, Nastassja Whitman
and Chase Byrd

Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas
Before you can sit down to watch the Curio Theatre Company's All My Sons, you must pass over the front porch and all the way through a small suburban home. Richly detailed and remarkably cozy, it is impossible to escape the uncomfortable feeling of trespassing through a very personal space. Along the way a cleverly curated library (including "Catch-22," "The Awakening," and "The Confessions of Saint Augustine") tantalizingly foreshadows the conflicts and revelations to come. This commitment to realism and attention to detail is evident through the entire play. Under Gary Carducci's direction the ensemble flatly rejects the melodramatic tone that normally defines Arthur Miller's first successful play. Instead they deliver a low key, authentic, and emotionally compelling story that feels painfully relevant.

All My Sons is set just a few years after World War II, but the inclusion of some modern costume elements and character interactions makes it clear this story could be told in the wake of any recent military conflict. All the action takes place in the backyard of the Keller family home. Chris Keller (Chase Byrd) has invited childhood neighbor Ann Deever (Nastassja Whitman) for a visit, hoping to propose while she is there. Ann appears smitten, but Chris's parents Kate (Trice Baldwin) and Joe (Paul Kuhn) are not ready to pop the champagne. Kate believes the wedding would be a betrayal to her older son Larry, who was still in love with Ann when he went missing in action more than three years before. Joe is also opposed, but it is unclear whether his concern is for Kate's well being or something more sinister. Through the cascade of personal revelations, exposed family secrets, and plot twists that follow, Miller offers some poignant lessons about the cost of war and the nature of good and evil.

Paul Kuhn's set design (yes, he also plays Joe) for the Keller's yard is as elaborate as the entryway house, and the initial transition from late night crickets to early morning storm is excellent. After that, the production has a bit of a rocky start. Miller may be to blame for the awkward opening dialogue, but the cast cannot find a way to make the first ten minutes any less uncomfortable to watch. Fortunately, things start to improve quickly. Byrd conveys a sense of internal struggle that gives Chris a satisfying depth. Kuhn maintains quietly insidious optimism that is especially effective in the frenetic second act. There is an authentic father-son chemistry between the pair. Baldwin transitions seamlessly between moments of aching vulnerability and vicious manipulation. Often portrayed as a pitiable annoyance, Whitman imbues Ann with clarity and strength of purpose that elevates the production. Carlo Campbell's brief but memorable appearance as Ann's older brother George is absolutely riveting.

Arthur Miller's plays are some of the most iconic American classics, but it is no secret that they can feel didactic and outdated. With just a few subtle choices Carducci's production avoids the worst of Miller's moralizing and misogyny. Breathing a new life and relevance into All My Sons is no easy task, but the Curio Theatre Company's attempt is a success.

All My Sons runs through November 3, 2018, at the Curio Theatre Company's home theatre, at the Calvary Center for Culture and Community, 4740 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia PA. For tickets, visit www.curiotheatre.org or call 215-921-8243.

Cast:
Paul Kuhn as Joe Keller
Trice Baldwin as Kate Keller
Chase Byrd as Chris Keller
Aetna Gallagher as Sue Bayliss
Ken Opdenaker as Dr. Jim Bayliss
Harry Slack as Frank Lubey
Angel Brice as Lydia Lubey
Nastassja Baset as Ann Deever
Carlo Campbell as George Deever

Crew:
Paul Kuhn is Set Designer
Dan Ison is the Sound Designer
Aetna Gallagher is Costumes Designer
Nate Hart is Lighting Designer
Kathleen H. Soltan is the Stage Manager
Kyle Fennie is the Production Manager


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