Not far from the Court Theatre you can see displays of outsized mining equipment at the nearby Museum of Science and Industry. Their corkscrew blades get powered to rip the rocks in their way into fragments and dust. Fix this image in your mind’s eye, as this writer did, when you venture to see Court’s All My Sons, to prepare yourself for playwright Arthur Miller’s plot similarly tunneling with massive speed and power into deeper and deeper still layers. Not gold or ore, Miller’s deep tunneling pen unearths humanity ripped bare-- raw, quaking, mortal and flawed.
It’s after World War II. Men have returned back to this small town changed by the war and not able to talk about it much. Those are the lucky ones. Others haven’t returned.
In the Keller family that is at the center of this story, they have one of each- a son (Chris Keller played by Timothy Edward Kane) returned and working now with his father (Joe Keller played by John Judd) in the family business and another son lost at war and whose body has never been found. Their mother (Kate Keller played by Kate Collins) refuses to believe that her lost son has died, and carries on hanging by a thread.
Son Chris has invited his late brother’s one-time fiancée (Ann Deever played by Heidi Kettering) to visit, with intent to propose marriage to her. He’s deeply in love but—it’s complicated. That her father was Joe Keller’s business partner and they had both been indicted for selling defective war plane parts to the Air Force is one complication. That his mother has to believe that Ann will wait for her other son to return from the war is another.
That’s just the setup. For two hours, Miller’s pen tunnels down, down, down deeper and deeper still into the terrain. The pace of All My Sons does remind of Miller’s Death of a Salesman, though many would likely find the latter a superior script.
Court Theatre Stages a Classic Worth Watching
We learn from the Court Theatre’s typically outstanding program notes that Miller was inspired to write by a real newspaper report of a patriotic daughter turning in her war profiteer father to authorities, for cheating at the war effort’s expense. Actually, the interplay of patriotism vs. family is but the starting point in Miller’s insightful explorations that might be summed up—compromise happens, humanity happens.
Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell has assembled a magnificent cast and production staff to bring this play to life. For starts, it’s no surprise that Scenic Designer John Culbert’s prior credits include several operas. Get to your seat early enough to study its simplicity in great detail so you can appreciate how every angle, color, and jagged edge was so clearly chosen to frame this grand opera sized story. You too may come away, like this writer, wondering why on earth nobody has thought to make all of Arthur Miller’s works into operas.
The lead actors – Timothy Edward Kane, Kate Collins, John Judd, and Heidi Kettering‑ all give solid performances with each line given the jewel case handling it so deserves. Collins is so compelling that you too may be immediately thinking of other roles—Blanche DuBois? Lady MacBeth? —you’d love to see her in and wondering if the soap operas she was in for years might be worth a youtube google.
If you love theater that provokes and pokes into what it is to be human, All My Sons deserves to be on your short list.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Thru February 11, 2018
Wednesdays and Thursdays 7:30 PM
Fridays 8:00 PM
Saturdays 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Sundays 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM
5535 South Ellis Avenue
About the Author: Amy Munice
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