If Arthur Miller were writing “All My Sons” today he might retitle it “All Our Wars.” Back when Miller wrote his first great play — 1947 — it was pretty much one war at a time. They had defined beginnings (declaration thereof) and ends (formal surrender). Although the geopolitics of war has changed, particularly since 9/11, its effect on combatants and families has not.
This won’t be the first time the John Drew Theater has defied the convention of presenting summertime plays that are as breezy as beach reading. And while such precedents as “The Glass Menagerie” (Tennessee Williams) and “Equus” (Peter Shaffer) are formidable dramas, neither approaches “Sons” for homefront tragedy in a global context.
That’s just fine with Ryan Eggold, who plays opposite Alec Baldwin and Laurie Metcalf as Chris, the surviving son of Joe and Kate Keller. “I was looking for any opportunity to do serious theater,” says Eggold, known for heartthrob TV roles: “90210,” “Entourage” and currently “The Blacklist” with James Spader. “I’ve only done the classics in college,” he says. “I love this role because it’s so intimidating and powerful — very weighty. Finding some levity to balance that is important in bringing the audience along with Miller’s message of social responsibility.”
That’s the fulcrum to Miller’s searing postwar classic. As the play opens, Joe and Kate’s oldest son, Larry, has been MIA for three years after his plane went down. His father, a businessman, was exonerated of a charge of knowingly shipping defective aircraft cylinder heads from his factory during World War II. His former neighbor and business partner took the rap and is now in jail. While Kate believes that Larry will someday return, his kid brother is just as convinced he won’t. Chris proposes marriage to Larry’s girl, Ann, the daughter of Joe’s imprisoned partner.
“All My Sons” is directed by Stephen Hamilton, who has a history acting and directing at the Drew, and before that as co-founder of Bay Street Theater.
Baldwin, who played the psychiatrist in “Equus” at the Drew in 2010, declined to be interviewed, saying that he wanted fellow cast members to get the attention. Famed in recent years for his comic role on “30 Rock” — not to mention “Saturday Night Live” — Baldwin last appeared on Broadway in 2013 in “Orphans” and played Macbeth in 1998 and Stanley Kowalski in “Streetcar Named Desire” in 1992.
Metcalf, a three-time Emmy winner as the title character’s sister in “Roseanne,” is no stranger to drama either. In 2012, she played Mary Tyrone in a London production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better mom and dad,” says Eggold, speaking not of Chris’ parents but of Ryan’s stage mentors. “Laurie’s right on the money. And there’s no celebrity to Alec when you’re working with him.”