“All My Sons” reviewed by Lawrence Riordan


Highly Recommended ***** I’ve always felt that The Raven Theatre is the best place in Chicago to see staples of the American stage, and its production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” is no exception. The story is heavier on the pathos than some of Miller’s more familiar plays, and it is the one that got him dragged in front of The House Committee on Un-American activities during the heyday of McCarthy. The story concerns the Keller family who are living in the years immediately following World War II. Joe Keller (Chuck Spencer), the family patriarch, served time for murder when he was accused of selling defective parts to army airplanes during the war. He was eventually exonerated, but his estranged friend, business partner, and once-and-future in-law, Steve Dever, still languishes behind bars. Steve’s daughter, Ann, had been engaged to Joe’s son, Larry, an army pilot who went missing during the war.

Kate, Joe’s wife and Larry’s mother, still refuses to believe he will never return, but every other character, including the extremely faithful Chris (Matthew Clinger), realizes that she is deluded. Ann (Jen Short) returns to court Chris, and, refusing to let life go on as it had, he marries her, forcing the other characters to confront the past. In doing so, terrible secrets are revealed, and the family is destroyed.

Under the direction of Michael Menendian, Matthew Clinger gives a unique portrayal of Chris, who is often an idealist. A Man who idolizes his father, and causes those around him to pursue unattainable goals. Instead, Clinger portrays Chris as a paragon of conscience and moral virtue, whose love, for both his parents, is a product of filial obligation. Ultimately, he forces the other characters, especially his father, to confront the shortcomings which are legion. In doing so the tragedy is partially transferred unto Joe and Kate, whose self delusions that Larry will return and that they have no culpability in his death are shattered, destroying the family.
JoAnne Montemurro is likewise consummate and conscientious as Kate. She executes scenes of warmth, motherly self=delusion and crises perfectly with veteran skill while never upstaging the other actors. Chuck Spencer has a superficial affability as Joe that is pure charm, and lacks the moral and virtuous underpinning of his sons. While Jen Short is lovely and glamorous as Kate, the strongest supporting performance in the cast is Kristen Williams as Sue Baylis, whose coldness towards her brother-in-law,Chris is part jealousy, but part a cold realization that such virtue threatens their comfortable and oblivious post-war existence.

The technical parts of the performance are muted, but effective. The lighting (Diane D. Fairchild) and minimal backdrop (Ray Toler),combined with the actor’s skill, create a sense of a happy suburban existence. but one that seems threatened and almost illusory. The costumes and make-up (Alaina Moore) are very convincing, and while they do project a feeling of nostalgia in the audience not entirely appropriate to the material, it adds to the production by causing the audience to share in the characters delusions about the innocence of the post-war years. This is acting and theater at its best!

“All My Sons” will continue at The Raven Theatre, located at 6157 N. Clark Street (at Granville) thru November 15th with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $36 ( seniors $31- Students/teachers $15) and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com
There is free parking in the lot next to the theater and some street parking metered and not in the area. Public transportation will bring you right to the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “All My Sons”.