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Monday, October 18, 2010

Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” a moving play at the Suffield Players

SUFFIELD-The Arthur Miller philosophical tragedy “All My Sons” is well done at the Suffield Players, running through Sunday.
The play, first performed in 1947, is about a self-made businessman, Joe Keller, who lives with his surviving son Chris, and his wife Kate in a typical suburb in an unnamed American town after World War II.
Their other son, Larry, was missing in action and is presumed dead by all but steadfast mother Kate, Marge Patefield, who has convinced herself that he is alive after 3 ½ years.
As the play evolves, we learn that Keller and his partner, Steve Deever were charged with selling cracked plane engine blocks to the United States Air Force that resulted in 21 pilot deaths. Keller got off on an appeal, but Deever took the fall and is in prison.
An added twist to the plot arrives in Ann Deever, played by Rayah Martin, daughter of the imprisoned man, who was engaged to Larry, and now is in love with Chris. Played by Shaun O’Keefe, Chris loves her also and they want to marry.
O’Keefe brings life and unpredictability to his role. He seems so easy-going and loving, which he is, but he reveals a deep and unexpected rage that is at once believable and unexpected.
Patefield’s Kate is a complex woman who appears to be a devoted mother and wife, and is, but she is made of steel inside, and has Lady Macbeth-like qualities that help lead to everyone’s undoing.
George Deever, played with intensity by Michael Reilly, has a brief but important appearance as the angry, then relaxed, then furious and heartbroken son of his accused father.
All the actors are very good, but Konrad Rogowski as Joe Keller, is amazing as the family patriarch — a self-made minimally educated but street-smart man who believes in the dog-eat-dog world. It’s all about the choices you make.
I kept thinking of the financial devastation created by former financier Bernard Madoff during the performance. Even though no one was killed because of the Madoff swindle, it’s the years of living with a lie before he was caught that I see as an apt parallel to Joe Keller in “All My Sons.”
Neighbors add a small town familiarity along with a communal feeling of secrets hidden and unspoken. Next door, living in the house from whence the Deevers fled, is the oppressed dreamer, Dr. Jim Bayliss, Robert Lunde, and his blunt, nagging wife, Sue, played by Amy Rucci.
The Keller’s other neighbors are the Frank and Lydia Lubey, played by Dana T. Ring and Ursula A. Nowik. Frank is convinced, through studying his horoscope, that Larry is alive.
Zak Kidd rounds out the capable supporting cast as young Bert, whom Joe teases in an uneasy exchange about a jail in Joe’s basement.
The Suffield Players often perform light farcical comedies, but this time they delve into the darker side of life and do so with style and power, directed by Ed Wilhelms. Occasionally I felt the heavy hand of direction, as when Ann, Joe, and Chris all marched over to sit on the garden bench.
The extensively-detail set of the Keller’s front porch and yard is nothing short of wonderful by the multitalented Rogowski.
The fascination of this moving tragedy lies in the many facets of falsehoods and self-deceits that bubble to the surface throughout, along with the well-acted and believable performances of this fine cast, who were all up to the task.


3½ Stars
Location: Mapleton Hall, 1305 Mapleton Ave. Suffield.
Production: Written by Arthur Miller. Directed by Ed Wilhelms. Stage manager Bob Williams. Technical direction and lighting design by Jerry Zalewski. Set design by Konrad Rogowski. Costume design by Dawn McKay.
Running time: 2 hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through Oct. 23.
Tickets: $17, $15 for seniors and students. Call 800-289-6148 or visit their website at
Konrad Rogowski … Joe Keller
Marge Patefield … Kate Keller
Shaun O’Keefe … Chris Keller
Rayah Martin … Ann Deever
Michael Reilly … George Deever
Robert Lunde … Dr. Jim Bayliss
Amy Rucci … Sue Bayliss
Dana T. Ring … Frank Lubey
Ursula A. Nowik … Lydia Lubey
Zak Kidd … Bert

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