Dan’s Papers – Review: ‘All My Sons’ Deconstructs the American Dream at Guild Hall

All my sons

Guild Hall’s production of All My Sons is a moving, shattering theatrical experience that brings to vivid life Arthur Miller’s iconic script and showcases the powerhouse talent of its cast. A tragedy of Greek proportions set against the backdrop of post-World War II America, the powerful messages in All My Sons are sure to haunt audiences long after the curtain call.

All My Sons tells a riveting tale of morality, responsibility, family and the true nature of the “American Dream.” Joe (Amagansett’s own Alec Baldwin) is the aging patriarch of the upper middle class Keller family, whose members are struggling to deal with the repercussions of World War II. On a stormy night in August, a tree that the Kellers planted in memory of lost-at-war son Larry collapses, bringing back a rush of wildly conflicting feelings for Joe’s wife Kate (Laurie Metcalf), who takes the incident as a sign that Larry is still alive. The timing couldn’t be worse; Joe and Kate’s other son Chris (Ryan Eggold) is about to propose to Ann Deever (Caitlin McGee), who previously dated Larry. Meanwhile, Ann’s brother George (David McElwee), still haunted by their father’s conviction of a wartime crime that occurred in Joe’s business, makes an unexpected visit and spouts some startling accusations that threaten to destroy everyone involved.

Rounding out the world of All My Sons are neighbors Jim (Tuck Milligan) and Sue (Bethany Caputo), an unhappily married couple; Frank (Ben Schnickel) and Lydia (Alicia St. Louis), a young couple who are seemingly without worry; and Bert (9-year-old Cashus Lee Muse of Montauk), a precocious little boy who idolizes Joe.

The show is anchored by stunning performances by Baldwin and Metcalf. Baldwin plays Joe with both a vulnerable warmth and an intimidating stoicism and is unafraid to peel back uncomfortable emotional layers as the drama escalates. Those who know Metcalf primarily for her television characters like Jackie on Roseanne are sure to be shocked by her raw, heartbreaking portrayal of a woman clinging to a hope that nobody else shares. But Metcalf’s Kate is nobody’s victim; her grief often translates into anger and frustration, particularly in scenes with Baldwin. Eggold and McGee emotionally portray lovers Chris and Ann, who are tortured by Kate’s insistence that Larry is alive. Eggold, known for his role on the NBC crime-thriller series The Blacklist, is charismatic and endearing, never going over the top but not afraid to bare his soul. McGee, meanwhile, takes what could be a one-note character and infuses her with an air of mystery; her actions and words are given interesting, difficult-to-read intentions that make Ann a compelling, fully realized woman. The supporting cast is excellent, with particularly strong turns by Caputo as the manipulative Sue, and McElwee, whose brief appearance as the mentally and emotionally tortured George gives the production some of its strongest moments.

Director Stephen Hamilton has taken a period drama and created a fascinating, multifaceted production that makes All My Sons feel very contemporary. While the play is grounded in reality and takes place outside the Kellers’ home, scenic designer Michael Carnahan gets creative, allowing the audience a peek inside the house while also foreshadowing the inevitable crumbling of the family. And the original music by David M. Brandenburg gives the entire proceedings an unnerving, foreboding feeling.

All My Sons, already a compelling work of theater, is made all the more fascinating and complex in this wonderful production.

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