Monday, October 11, 2010

Faulkner: "All My Sons"

Arthur Miller's Tony Award winning 1947 play "All My Sons" is currently playing at the Faulkner University Dinner Theatre, reminding us that concerns of family and business in war time are as resonant today as they were when the play was written.

Directed by Jason Clark South, this production features some of Faulkner's veteran actors whose acting abilities are challenged by Miller's naturalistic treatment; and they are mostly up to the task.

Joe and Kate Keller [Chris Kelly and Kari Gatlin] have been keeping mum for some years about Joe's responsibility of manufacturing faulty airplane parts that were installed and caused the deaths of numerous pilots during World War II. Joe had also let his partner suffer the consequences of a long jail sentence, while he returned to work and made a very successful business for himself and his family. -- The townspeople have been suspicious of Joe ever since he got out of jail.

Their son Larry was "lost" on a flight mission, and Kate is resolute in believing that he is still alive, while others know that he is dead.

Younger son Chris [Chase McMichen] also served in the war, returning home safely, and idolizing his father; he invites former neighbor and Larry's sweetheart Ann Deever [Jaynie Casserly] to their home in hopes of igniting a romance between them, a sensitive issue, since Kate insists that she is "Larry's girl"...and it becomes difficult for the young people to break their news to Joe & Kate.

When Ann's brother George [Tony Davidson] arrives after visiting his father in jail, he knows that Joe had allowed his father to rot in jail, and will do most anything to announce it to the world and rescue Ann from the corruption of the Keller family.

Neighbors Dr. Jim & Sue Bayliss [Michael Morrow & Abby Roberts] have moved into the Deever's house next door to the Kellers, and neighbors Frank & Lydia Lubey [Daniel Fausz & Hailey Beene] who have known the Kellers all their lives, serve as reminders of the past, and Frank writes a horoscope for Larry, insisting that he is not dead and thereby giving hope to Kate, while Lydia -- pregnant with her fourth child -- is an ideal wife & mother.

Young Bert [Trish Wampol] is a protege of Joe's in serving as a policeman for the community -- upholding the strongest moral principles instilled in him by ironic comment on Joe's secrecy.

As secrets are revealed, and the truth about Larry's demise becomes clear, Joe is left in a desperate condition: he has lost the love and trust of his remaining son; and Kate's belief that Larry is alive is shattered.

There are some fine moments of impassioned conflict between father and son, and of budding romance & trust between Ann and Chris, but much of the dialogue -- and therefore our understanding of the themes and conflicts -- is inaudible. There are two reasons for this which can be fixed: first, naturalistic dialogue still needs to be projected, and many of the actors in this production speak so softly that they can not be heard; second, the set has a wide expanse of white stones filling the back-yard of the Keller's house that make loud gravelling sounds with every step on them by an actor, and while the set-design looks good, when dialogue is covered, it must be changed...especially since much of the acting is good and ought to be heard.