The Dayton Theatre Guild’s newest production

Left to right: Mike Beerbower, Jeff Sams, and Dave Williamson; photos: All My Sons

By Jacqui Theobald

“It’s a powerhouse,” an audience member said. “It’s SO touching,” said another. They were in the sold-out opening night audience that had just seen All My Sons, the Arthur Miller classic.  Superbly directed by Debra Kent with an enormously able cast infuse the needy, flawed characters with the passions and emotional desperation that makes their personalities stunningly realistic.

WWII businessman Joe Keller, believably played by David Williamson, finds his only value and self-worth on his ability to support his wife and sons. “It gives him access to the country club, a big fish” Williamson explained in an earlier interview “He’s dumb, uneducated and thinks his money is the only way to be respected”. He doesn’t acknowledge he’s committed a moral crime, if not a legally provable one.

During the war the neighbors, partners owned a factory together. When Deever who was there called, Keller feigned illness, stayed home when he was told an airplane part was coming off the line with a defect, Keller told him to ship them anyway. Ultimately twenty-one planes with the defective part went down.

There was a trial, Keller denied knowledge or responsibility, Deever went to prison. His family moved away. Larry, the older Keller son, went down. His father says he never flew a P 42, the affected plane.

As Chris Keller, Jeff Sams creates the naïve son who believes in his father’s innocence and then sees that he did lie to blame his partner, causing his imprisonment. The anger and disappointment scenes between the two are absolutely gut wrenching. His love scenes with the sweet former next door neighbor and his dead brother’s fiancé are tender and caring. As the play builds toward its tragic conclusion, so does the depth of Sams’ performance. After the show he said, “It wears me out, every night”.

Rachel Oprea plays wife Kate Keller, who has never given up the idea that her son is alive. Even years later, after there is no possibility, her profound and unrealistic hope affects the family and everything they do as well as her own mental health. Her refusal to even allow the thought makes her cold attitude to Ann Deever who has come back from New York to accept Chris Keller’s marriage proposal. Oprea does determined and brittle most convincingly. The final scene when she’s faced with certain proof is emotionally volatile. After the show she said, “It exhausts me every night.” The makeup to age her closer to Joe was effective, even though the stage is so close to the audience.

Kari Carter is Ann Deever, the girl next door, grown up. She’s ready and charmingly eager to accept Chris’s proposal, even in the face of Kate’s seething anger. She’s able to show a strength of character with a mercenary neighbor and a great sorrow in a final scene with Kate and Joe.

Adee McFarland, as the money mad neighbor Sue Bayless, is new to the Guild but not to other community theatres. She is so good as the greedy, sharp-tongued neighbor whose only motivation is income that it is a pleasure to dislike her. The scene between Ann and Sue is sharp and subtle at the same time.

As her hapless husband Dr. Jim Bayless, Rick Flynn is a bit cynical and disenchanted with the petty ailments of his patients.  He really wants to do research and has a brief scene to mourn his inability to go against his wife’s drive. Research doesn’t pay enough to satisfy her.

Noah Rutkowski is young Bert, the neighbor kid teased by Joe.  He shows a natural comfort on stage and an ability to take direction. We’ll be seeing more of him on area stages in years to come.

Mike Beerbower as George Deever, Ann’s brother arrives late in the play, seething after visiting his father in prison. His energy does justice to the barely suppressed need to attack the Kellers. He makes the anger real and understandable. He also wears his ultra-sharp zoot suit with a certain sense of style.

Heather Atkinson and Todd Rohrer play neighbors, the Lubeys, with a long history of knowing the Kellers and Deevers. Both bring a lighter touch, almost normal behavior.

All the action takes place on a set, beautifully designed and executed by the talented Chris Harmon. In back of the idealized home, complete with picket fence there’s a yard with wicker furniture. It’s just right for Joe, the boy who grew up so disadvantaged.

The Guild has a commodious costume storage space housing donated clothes, categorized by era and size. Carol Finley organized and cataloged it and has her own mental catalog. She selected and created just the right mid-forties styles.

Dierdre Root is Production Stage Manager and also did Props.

Assistant Stage Manager is Ryan Petrie. K. L. Storer is Producer and also did Sound Design. There was a nice effect of low rumbling thunder throughout, supporting the mounting sense of disaster.

Lighting Design is by Tony Fende. Heather Martin did the period hair design.

Seventy years ago the circumstances, the greed and the morality were current. Today we are still considering moral versus legal questions and greed is forever present.

The Dayton Theatre Guild is at 430 Wayne, 45410. Call 937-278-5993 or go to daytontheatreguild.org for times, tickets and other information.

Tags: ,

Jacqui Theobald
Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/19

L&D

Major key Last weekend a local couple was watching TV in their living room, having a relaxing evening, when suddenly […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/12

L&D

Jesus take the wheel A local couple recently decided to visit their church on a particularly warm and muggy Sunday […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/5

L&D

Flightless In a local park, police were dispatched to the crime scene. A woman called the police when she realized […]

The Docket: 8/29

285_2697643

Stolen in a nanosecond Just last week a woman visited her local sheriff’s office to place a tip on a […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 8/22

L&D

Totally secure knot …not In a local home a garage door was broken into. This garage door was perfectly secured […]