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A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Jewish Light

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Riveting Revival: ‘All My Sons’ soars in extraordinary staging at New Jewish Theatre

Jon Gitchoff
L to R: Kristen Joy Lintvedt as Ann, Greg Johnston as Joe, Jayson Heil as Chris, and Amy Loui as Kate

“All My Sons” is receiving an extraordinary staging at the New Jewish Theatre. The 1947 play was Arthur Miller’s first great success on Broadway.

The plot was inspired by the true story of a company that knowingly supplied defective aircraft engines during World War II. Miller’s outcry against putting profits above people is as timely and stirring as ever.

In the first special moment of his astute direction, Gary Wayne Barker opens the production with something that happens before the first scene and is not described until several pages into the script. Kate Keller watches as a storm topples a small tree in the backyard of the house she shares with her husband, Joe, and their son, Chris. The portrayal of the storm is chilling thanks to Denisse Chavez’ lighting and Amanda Werre’s sound.

| RELATED: How to watch and understand NJT’s performance of Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’

The tree is special to Kate because it was planted in honor of the Kellers’ other son, Larry, a pilot in World War II who has been missing in action for three years. Showing Kate’s reaction to the fallen tree helpfully focuses attention on the trouble beneath the surface in the Keller household.

Kate has another reason for being upset. The Kellers have a houseguest—Ann Deever, whose family used to live next door. Now she lives 700 miles away in New York. Her father, Steve, was Joe’s partner in a plant that made airplane parts during the war. Both were arrested after cracked cylinder heads from their factory caused 21 planes to crash. Joe was exonerated, but Steve is still in prison.

L to R: Greg Johnston as Joe and Jayson Heil as Chris (Jon Gitchoff)

Chris has invited Ann to visit so he can propose to her. This marriage is unthinkable to Kate because Ann was Larry’s girl before the war. Kate refuses to believe Larry is dead and will brook no opposition.

The NJT actors are superb. Greg Johnston’s Joe puts up a front of contentment at the start of the play, but Johnston also conveys a sense of weariness. The suggestion that Joe is carrying a burden is the beginning of a character arc that is totally convincing throughout the play. Amy Loui beautifully judges Kate’s growing desperation as she clings to her conviction that Larry must be alive.

Jayson Heil captures the idealism that drives and blinds Chris. Ann’s sweetness, decency and strength of character are equally projected by Kristen Joy Lintvedt. Heil and Lintvedt are wonderfully romantic when Chris proposes to Ann.

Joel Moses has to demonstrate an enormous range of emotions when Ann’s brother, George, barges in on the Kellers after an eye-opening visit with his imprisoned father. Moses makes the transitions completely credible. All the confrontations in the play are devastating thanks to Johnston, Loui, Heil, Lintvedt and Moses.

Two couples living near the Kellers have small but important roles. Sue Bayliss thinks Chris’s idealism has been a bad influence on her husband, Jim. He is considering leaving his medical practice for a job in research that will provide less money for his family. Frank Lubey was not drafted because he was always a year older than the age limit. Untouched by the war and its aftermath, he and his wife, Lydia, lead carefree lives. The couples are vividly portrayed by Joshua Mayfield as Jim, Zahria Moore as Sue, Riley Capp as Frank and Summer Baer as Lydia. Shane Rose performs admirably as Bert, Joe’s young friend from the neighborhood.

In C. Otis Sweezey’s scenic design, the Kellers’ backyard is an inviting space surrounded on three sides by the audience and on the fourth by the handsome back façade of the suburban home. Barker’s direction makes masterly use of the three-quarter round stage. Michele Friedman Siler’s costumes are exactly right for the characters and the period.

The title’s significance emerges near the end, when the phrase “all my sons” occurs in the dialogue. This moment has the impact of self-evident truth in the NJT production.

‘All My Sons’

When: Through April 7
Where:  New Jewish Theatre’s Wool Studio Theater in the Jewish Community Center’s Arts & Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive
How much: $27 to $58
More info:  Visit newjewishtheatre.org or call 314-442-3283

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