'Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets'. It's safe to say that I have a rather sizable soft spot for the morality-minded Arthur Miller. So when I saw that the STC were taking on his first major hit, All My Sons, I was about as excited as the cat who got the cream. Tickets were uppermost upon my mind as I knew this would be an event not to be missed, especially with such a stellar cast at the helm and resident director Kip Williams taking the reins. A play steeped in intrigue, family and questions of duty, we see a scathing indictment of the American Dream. Despite the decades that have passed, the brilliance of this revival lies in the fact that it is still just as relevant today as it was in 1947. Always astute, Miller leaves us questioning just what the 'right regrets' are.
The Keller family are a pillar of the community, comfortably living out their days after WWII in suburban America. However, all is not as rosy as it seems behind this proverbial white picket fence as we learn of the unknown presence of their son Larry. In a constant state of grief, his mother Kate refuses to give up hope that he will return, despite being missing in action for three and a half years. However, other family members have different ideas about his disappearance and how to manage it. When their last surviving son Chris announces that he is in love with and wishes to marry his brother's fiancee Ann, more than one dark family secret begins to bubble to the surface, shedding light on war, duty and honour.
All My Sons is classic Miller, taking socio-political tensions and reflecting them through the prism of the family nucleus. This microcosm functions expertly to reveal some of the moral questions plaguing the world in the wake of World War II and how they can affect individuals in a very real way. The fact that this play was based on actual events only serves to drive home the message and critique the burgeoning optimism of the era, grounding it in self-reflection. The triumph of this STC production is found in the realisation that this work truly speaks for itself. Williams' decision for minimalism allows the script to be the primary attraction as the action enthralls us and we are on the edge of our seats until the very last moment. This decision is echoed through Alice Babidge's set design as we witness one of the truest moments of set artistry I have ever experienced. In the final crucial moments, just as we see the truth within (about what, my lips are sealed), the set peels back like layers of an onion, revealing the inner workings of the man, the mind and his remorse. It was true brilliance in set form.
In recounting the reasons for this play's success, one would be remiss to omit the crucial contribution of the actors that bring these words to life. The central cast comprise a treasure trove of talent, beginning with John Howard as the head-strong Joe Keller. In this role he proves once again that he can do justice to the Arthur Miller works after his 1991 performance as John Proctor in The Crucible for the STC. Another confident character, Chris Ryan shines as the altogether disillusioned Chris Keller who bears the full brunt of his father's deception. Rounding out the male leads, Josh McConville graces the STC stage once again to capture our attention as the justice-seeking brother of Ann, George Deever. Together, each of these men create meaningful connections and we are truly invested in their respective plights.
Coming to our leading ladies, Robyn Nevin proves once again why the stage is truly where she belongs. As the bereft Kate Keller, her double denial, firstly of her son Larry's death, and her husband's complicity in it, illustrates the power of hope beyond reason as she delivers a highly nuanced performance. On the other hand, Eryn Jean Norville gave us much the same of what we saw in her role as Catharine in Suddenly, Last Summer earlier this year. Unfortunately, not much has changed in her portrayal this time around as she plays the much sought after Ann Deever, save for a change in accent and dress. For those in the audience who didn't see the earlier production, she is far from stagnant and captures the spirit of the character well. However, those lucky enough to have witnessed both know what she can do, and this spectator was simply left craving a little more variety and range in her portrayal.
In all, this production is a moral quest for the ages, digging deep to source the meaning of honour and question the rationalisations we make for our choices. With a production that is so en pointe in every element, we see the STC at their best, providing us with theatrical entertainment that truly delves beneath the surface. I have no qualms in declaring this to be the predicted hit of the entire STC season, so if you didn't manage to get a ticket to All My Sons, I'm afraid this won't end up as one of Miller's 'right regrets'.