Maitland Repertory Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons dives deep into its dark themes, leaving the audience feeling for every flawed and human character. What starts as a leisurely look at a suburban family accelerates into a philosophical examination of duty, trauma and grief, and we are invited into the family backyard to watch in awe as the play’s events transpire before us.
It is a personal love of mine when actors perform pre-show or during intermission. As you walk into the playhouse for MRT’s production of All My Sons, all the characters are already on the stage. The idealised American Dream is set by actors sitting on green, green grass in front of bright blue walls, staring off into the horizon while a sepia-coloured home video plays in the background.
This production uses a bare-slanted stage, which does several clever things. First, it allows the actors to be seated on the ground in a way that is still very visible to the audience. Second, the audience feels like they are in the space with the characters, as if the backyard’s grassy knoll is extended to us. And third, it helps to create the illusion of the horizon as the actors stare over us and into the distance.
Despite the bare stage, the costumes and accents help to set the play in the right time and place. There is no confusion that we are in America in the aftermath of WWI.
Many of the characters in All My Sons give heartfelt and emotional monologues that reveal the depths of their trauma. Aimee Cavanagh, Richard Rae, and especially Carl Caulfield did a fantastic job with their pieces. Real sweat, tears, and authentic connection to the words and themes resulted in the audience feeling for and with the characters of Kate, Chris, and Joe (respectively).
Although it was hard to look away from Carl Caulfield’s powerful presence, the standout performance in this production was Richard Rae’s portrayal of Chris Keller. Rae’s connection with every cast member was clear, and he was the weaving that threaded the production together.
An absolute treat for the audience was the scene between Chris Keller and Joe Keller, where truths are revealed and philosophies grappled with. This was the only scene that mainly used music or lighting, creating a warped sense of reality. Their world was collapsing right before our eyes, and the audience could only watch with awe.
Maitland Repertory Theatre’s All My Sons remarkably brings Miller’s play and its characters to life. Although this review emphasises the darker elements of the play, it should be noted that the performance includes some light-hearted moments and witty interactions, which were an absolute joy to watch as well.
The production runs for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances from 14th July through to the 23rd July.