A stark, gray sky on the verge of bursting into storm looms large over the Midwestern suburb that sets "All My Sons," in the Huntington Theatre Company production of the Arthur Miller classic, directed by David Esbjornson (who helmed the premiers of the last two plays of Miller’s career) with scenic design by Scott Bradley and lighting design by Christopher Akerlind.
It’s not only the battle-scarred sky that will be violently forced to open. The characters in this gripping moral drama, while dressed like they’ve popped off of a Norman Rockwell cover, are as internally charged as the nimbus clouds that gather above them.
It’s 1947, the Second World War is over, the ticker-tape has been swept from the streets, and a generation of young veterans, with the aid of the G.I. bill, is struggling to settle down into comfortable lives. Excluding those like Larry Keller, who never returned.
Larry’s mother Kate, played by first-rate tragedian, Karen Macdonald, stubbornly insists that Larry is alive and will one day walk back into his childhood home. "Because it has to be."
Meanwhile, Larry’s younger brother Chris, a tall, blond, athletic pillar of American idealism, played by Lee Aaron Rosen with the voice and bearing of an operatic tenor, is getting restless. Chris wants to marry Larry’s sweetheart, Ann Deever, played by Diane Davis with notes of Judy Garland.
A marriage of Chris and Ann would be shattering for Kate, who still believes Ann is destined for Larryâ€”and this is not the only reason their love may prove star-crossed. Ann’s father sits moldering in prison for crimes that he still blames on Joe, the factory-owning patriarch of the Keller clan, played with truly impressive complexity and charm by Will Lyman.
Battle lines are drawn slowly during a first act, buoyed by humorous portrayals of the Kellers’ lurking busybody neighbors, like amateur astrologer, Frank Lubey (Owen Doyle) and domineering housewife Sue Bayliss (Dee Nelson).
When the second act rolls around, Ann and the Kellers will each be forced out of their shells, forced to take a moral stand and convince a scene mate of the impossible. Each conflict forces a new moral question.
"All My Sons" is the fourth play in what the Huntington has called its "Season of American Stories." In many ways, it echoes the season’s premier, August Wilson’s "Fences." While very different in rhythm and tone, both plays feature a charismatic father holding court over his backyard, who ultimately tests your loyalty and trust. Both explore strained families, and the way a father’s past can shape his son’s future. Both are excellent.
"All My Sons" plays at the B.U. Theatre through February 7.