Deception and denial shatters a post-World War II family in Arthur Miller’s timeless play “All My Sons.”
All College Theatre (ACT) brought Miller’s play to the Don Evans Black Box Theater for a five-night run, which also marked ACT’s last full-length production of the year.
To crowds of students, faculty and parents, the actors delivered compelling performances in a drama that tackled serious material, which can be hard to accomplish effectively, especially in college productions.
Some students were familiar with the play and appreciated seeing the characters come to life on stage. “I had to read it (the play) in high school . they’re (the cast) doing a really good job,” Christine Pennacchio, junior secondary education/physics major, said.
Directed by Jennifer Sherron Stock, the plot focuses on the Keller and Deever families. The tragic figure, Joe Keller (Dennis Chin) owns a prosperous manufacturing business that produces aero engine parts.
He has kept a harrowing secret from his son, Chris Keller (Jason Barrameda), a war World War II veteran who lost his brother, Larry, in the war three years ago. Chris now wants his parents’ blessing to marry his brother’s ex-girlfriend, Ann Deever (Lindsay Gelay).
Kate Keller (Honor Friberg) is a grieving mother who remains in denial about her son’s death, which in turn makes it easy for her to conceal her husband’s secret – the crime he committed during the war may have resulted in their son’s death.
For many seniors in the play, the production marked their last performance with ACT. “It was the last show for a lot of people in the cast . and I was fortunate enough to be apart of it,” James Introcaso (Dr. Jim Bayliss), sophomore communication studies major, said.
The tone of the play, like most tragedies, is extremely dark and intense. When Chris Keller finally discovers the truth about his father’s crime, he becomes enraged and emotional. The look in his eyes is painful to watch as he uses physical force on a man he once admired. “What are you?” he screams, shaking his father by the collar of his shirt. This scene, like many others in the play is moving, but upsetting to watch.
Nevertheless, there are light-hearted moments that give the play balance. “I liked it a lot . there’s light humor, which is good, since the material (in the play) is kind of heavy,” Luke Franklin, a 2004 graduate of the College and former ACT member, said. “I know most of the people in the cast, so I just wanted to support them,” he said.
Many of the light-hearted scenes are a result of Chin, who is always able to elicit laughs from the audience with his time-appropriate one-liners. When Joe (Chin) catches his son and Ann kissing, they are startled, but he makes light of the embarrassment. The first time he catches them, he says, “Oh, I didn’t know it was Labor Day.” The second time he says, “Every time I come out here, it looks like playtime.” The audience embraced Chin’s humor, which is warranted, especially after many emotionally charged scenes.
Pennacchio, who has seen many ACT productions in the past said that Chin can be both “hilarious” and “serious.” “When I watch (Chin), he has an authentic way about his acting,” she said.
All of actors, whether in large or minor roles, immersed themselves in their characters. It took a lot of practice – four weeks of intense rehearsal.
“I think in order to connect with your character you need to connect with your own personal experiences,” Gelay, junior deaf education/elementary education and English major, said.
Barrameda’s role called for a range of emotions, which he displayed with passion in every scene. The sophomore biology major said he approaches his craft with focus. “There are a million ways to sound angry,” he said. “You have to sit and think about how to deliver each line.”
Chin, senior biology and sociology major, examined his character, allowing him to bring more depth to a character he has little in common with. “He is so different from me, he is an older male,” he said. “And he lost his son – I don’t know what it’s like to lose a son.”
Performing in front of crowds five nights in a row can wreak havoc on an actor’s nerves, but Chin didn’t let it bother him. After all, this production is his 13th show as an actor or director with ACT.
Gelay felt similarly. “I get stage fright every time I go on stage,” she said. “I convert it into positive energy . the key for me is to stay focused and stay in the moment.”
The production also brought students who are eager to act in the future. “I’m interested in theater and am thinking of possibly joining ACT,” Amber Cox, freshman business management major, said. She also pointed out a performance that she thought was exceptional, Friberg’s portrayal of the grieving mother. “I probably enjoyed her performance the best,” Cox said. “She was really was believable.”
ACT has presented a multitude of plays this year, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “An Evening of Shorts.” Chin recognized the significance of plays in a college environment. “It is important to see what your peers are doing,” he said. “This play itself has so many universal themes that everyone can relate to and that are particularly relevant today.”
Barrameda agreed wholeheartedly. “The arts is such a huge part of the campus community,” he said. “You’re never too busy to enjoy something like this.”