Friday, May 08, 2009

A Miller's Tale : All My Sons at The Gate

It seems fitting that The Gate’s production of All My Sons opened on the evening of d'Emergency Budget. Arthur Miller’s first successful play may be set in post-war America, but his underlying criticisms of capitalist immorality have a resonance here on home turf - profiteering fiscal egotism casts a long shadow, the ultimate cost still unclear.

Over three acts, the secrets coiled around the roots of the Keller household are laid bare within a remarkable set – a skillful evocation of post-war suburban affluence - all back porch, shade tree and picket fences. Neighbours pop in and out – no locked doors here – but as the play unfurls, we soon find that all is not quite idyllic.

Eldest son Larry has been missing in action for three years, his mother Kate still nursing unhealthy delusions of his homecoming. Self-made patriarch Joe and their son Chris realise otherwise – but even they can’t guess the full truth of his disappearance. And what of that court case and those flawed cylinder heads, responsible for the deaths of twentyone young airforce flyers? Slowly and painfully, truths emerge into the fading light of a balmy summer evening. What at first seems a family comfortable within their collective skins, soon reveals a host of faultlines, undermining romantic expectations and apparent neighbourly respect with moral culpability.

Money, money, money. Family. Country. World. All hinge on the results of individual decisions. When lust for the good life, and the profits necessary to maintain it, overwhelm the moral centre of any one individual, the resulting horrors can spring from the ground like so many planted dragons teeth.

A skillful ensemble cast brings us deep into the core of the themes here, with several stand out performances; Garett Lombard, in particular, shines with an immaculately paced performance as the idealistic Chris, conflicted between love, duty and battle-hardened morality. A classy production of a classic drama - well worth a look.

All My Sons run at The Gate Theatre has been extended due to popular demand until 13 June 2009, 8.00pm 
nightly. A version of this review originally appeared in the Evening Herald, 8.5.09