New York City Theater
"All My Sons"
It takes guts. Director Simon McBurney’s production of “All My Sons” abstracts Arthur Miller’s drama without forgoing its humanity. Filled with pity and terror, you look away lest you be scorched by its intensity. (It has severely divided viewers and reviewers into defenders and detractors.)
McBurney takes what could be an evening of implausible coincidences and turns it into a masterpiece of staging, treating the play as Greek tragedy by stripping away its scenic trappings. Actors are in full view in the wings and not truly “on” until they enter the playing space. Projections enlarge and comment on the action, sound and music are constant presences, though perhaps sometimes too blatantly.
Like Sophocles’ “Oediupus,” Miller’s play also deals with the classic conflict between fathers and sons. It’s a comparison the author himself once made.
In this case, Joe Keller’s factory allowed cracked cylinder heads to be shipped to the Air Force, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots. Joe, saying he knew nothing, was exonerated while his partner remains in jail. Now, the partner’s daughter and son, Ann and George, have come to discover the truth, to the consternation of Joe’s wife, Kate, and the reality check awakening of their son, Chris.
As Joe, John Lithgow is a towering figure brought to heel, while Dianne Wiest’s Kate is a woman on the verge who substitutes domesticity for the storm that she fears will eventually engulf the family. As Ann, Katie Holmes (yes, that one) holds her own, while Christian Camargo is an electrifying George.
But this production emphasizes son Chris, and Patrick Wilson seizes the reins in his strongest-ever performance. Starting as the “good son,” he becomes an avenging though never less than sorrowful fury. He’s a Christ figure, for sure, taking on the sins of the world, and he sets this astounding evening on fire.
--David A. Rosenberg
Oct. 26, 2008