Thursday, February 18, 2016

theatre review - ALL MY SONS - Grand Canyon University - February 14, 2016

Natalie S. Ward, Jamie Coblentz, Scott Campbell, and Keach Siriani-Madden
Photo by Darryl Webb / Grand Canyon University
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 21st.

 "Phoenix theatergoers currently have the rare gift of two exceptional American classic dramas that both center around dysfunctional family dynamics. Arizona Theatre Company's Fences, that just opened this past weekend and is led by an ensemble made up of professional actors who are all members of Actors' Equity, is virtually matched by Grand Canyon University's production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, with a cast almost entirely composed of college students. Based on a true story, Miller's 1947 drama focuses on the tragic costs of war, and the companies and people that profit from it. In late-1940s suburban Ohio, businessman Joe Keller's company knowingly manufactured and shipped cracked cylinder heads which were used in planes and led to the deaths of 21 World War II pilots. Joe was exonerated but his partner Steve Deever wasn't. Joe's elder son Larry has been missing in action for three years and Joe's wife Kate refuses to believe that Larry isn't coming home. ...Centering around the themes of loyalty, betrayal, and animosity as well as the American dream to succeed, All My Sons is a well-written play that dissects family dynamics yet it is also somewhat slightly melodramatic and some might say even dated. However, with companies like Halliburton and Blackwater and high profile names like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney all capitalizing on the military, the focus on war profits and the impact it has on those involved is especially relevant today.
GCU's production, skillfully directed by Claude Pensis, features an exceptional cast. Scott Campbell and Natalie S. Ward are superb as Joe and Kate. Campbell's combination of chumminess, egotism, and forthrightness in his portrayal attempts to hide the conniving, powerful, and dangerous man that Joe is underneath....Ward is superb in showing how Kate's disillusionment has now swallowed her whole. Her ability to portray Kate's nervousness is matched equally by her steadfast determination in how she refuses to admit or believe what she knows is true....Pensis' decision to forego an intermission is a good move as this way the focus on the plot and the revelations never lets up. He also keeps a steady hand on his cast to ensure that no one, not even the comical neighbors next door, ever let the affair cross the line from serious drama to melodrama..All My Sons addresses a multitude of themes, from family loyalty to moral responsibility. Yet it is also an honest portrayal of how sometimes the path to succeed can be filled with dishonesty and disillusionment. Arthur Miller's play is full of revelations and soul searching with an ending that packs a punch. Grand Canyon University's production is top-notch, with a gifted cast and solid direction."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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