Arthur Miller’s first big-hit play, All My Sons from 1947, is an intimate and moving tale of a munitions manufacturer in Ohio following World War II. Based on a true story that Miller read in a newspaper, the play follows the Keller family. Patriarch Joe becomes wealthy making airplane engine parts for the war effort. He almost loses it all when a defect from his process was linked to the deaths of 21 pilots. His partner and next door neighbor takes the fall, and is still in prison. Joe manages to get his own sentence commuted through some legal wrangling that is still causing suspicion and unease in their quiet neighborhood.
Haywood Arts Regional Theatre director Julie Kinter has assembled a stellar cast, touting a rare stage appearance by Executive Director Steve Lloyd as Joe Keller. His performance is so compelling, audience were overheard lamenting the fact that he didn’t perform more frequently. Longtime HART actor Suzanne Tinsley, who appears rarely as well, plays Kate Keller, Joe’s spouse. She gives an emotionally complex performance as a wife who wants to support her husband, but fears the realities of the future as much as she clings to the hopes of the past. New York actor and Lloyd protégé Adam Kampouris returned to HART to play Keller’s son, Chris. A war hero, Chris is the only surviving son — his older brother Larry died two years earlier while serving as a pilot.
As the show begins, we see a tree that had been planted in Larry’s memory. It has been blown over in a freak wind storm the night before, setting an ominous tone. Equally ominous is the arrival of Ann Deever, Larry’s former fiance. Chris is set to propose to her, but everyone is worried that Kate won’t react well. Kampouris’s performance is tightly wound and riveting. There’s a lot of anger set to boil over at the slightest provocation. Emily Crock’s Ann is demure and a bit overshadowed by the stronger personalities within the Keller family conflicts. Hunter Henrickson arrives late in the show as Ann’s brother George, bringing new information about the plight of their imprisoned father. The edges are starting to fray, and the hopes for a happy resolve are fading fast. Henrickson’s haunted and nervous portrayal of George is a stand out.
By the time the show reached its crushing conclusion, some audience members openly wept. On the night I attended, the audience rose in unified applause, moved by the power and expert execution of a masterful play.
WHAT: All My Sons by Arthur Miller
WHERE: Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, 250 Pigeon Street, Waynesville, harttheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Aug. 21. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $24 general/$16 Thursday tickets