Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

All My Sons
Grand Canyon University
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of The Bridges of Madison County, Fences, Pinocchio, Passing Strange and Looking Over the President's Shoulder


Natalie S. Ward, Jamie Coblentz, Scott Campbell, and Keach Siriani-Madden
Photo by Darryl Webb / Grand Canyon University
Phoenix theatergoers currently have the rare gift of two exceptional American classic dramas that both center around dysfunctional family dynamics. Arizona Theatre Company's Fences, that just opened this past weekend and is led by an ensemble made up of professional actors who are all members of Actors' Equity, is virtually matched by Grand Canyon University's production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, with a cast almost entirely composed of college students.

Based on a true story, Miller's 1947 drama focuses on the tragic costs of war, and the companies and people that profit from it. In late-1940s suburban Ohio, businessman Joe Keller's company knowingly manufactured and shipped cracked cylinder heads which were used in planes and led to the deaths of 21 World War II pilots. Joe was exonerated but his partner Steve Deever wasn't. Joe's elder son Larry has been missing in action for three years and Joe's wife Kate refuses to believe that Larry isn't coming home. Larry's younger brother Chris has invited Larry's girlfriend Ann, who is Steve's son, for a visit as he plans to marry her. Yet their marriage would destroy Kate and her belief that Larry isn't dead. A chain of events threatens to reveal the dark truth behind Joe's knowledge about the cylinders as well as if Larry is alive or dead.

Centering around the themes of loyalty, betrayal, and animosity as well as the American dream to succeed, All My Sons is a well-written play that dissects family dynamics yet it is also somewhat slightly melodramatic and some might say even dated. However, with companies like Halliburton and Blackwater and high profile names like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney all capitalizing on the military, the focus on war profits and the impact it has on those involved is especially relevant today.

GCU's production, skillfully directed by Claude Pensis, features an exceptional cast. Scott Campbell and Natalie S. Ward are superb as Joe and Kate. Campbell's combination of chumminess, egotism, and forthrightness in his portrayal attempts to hide the conniving, powerful, and dangerous man that Joe is underneath. But as revelations happen, Joe's mask begins to crack and Campbell perfectly makes us see that it was all a front. Campbell is a GCU staff member and an alumnus of GCU's College of Fine Arts and Production and works well with the rest of the cast, who are all GCU students. Ward is superb in showing how Kate's disillusionment has now swallowed her whole. Her ability to portray Kate's nervousness is matched equally by her steadfast determination in how she refuses to admit or believe what she knows is true.

Keach Siriani-Madden is especially strong when showing how Chris stands up to his father and his mother. He is appropriately excited when Anne comes to visit but once the truths start to come out he doesn't back down as his anger and cynicism come out, yet he also doesn't ever turn this high-pitched confrontation into melodrama. As Ann, Jamie Coblentz is confident, warm and sympathetic, and Hayden Domenico, who plays Ann's gung-ho lawyer brother George, is especially good in showing how George comes on strong as he is prepared to get the facts out but becomes confused when he is almost sucked back in by Joe's manipulation.

Pensis' decision to forego an intermission is a good move as this way the focus on the plot and the revelations never lets up. He also keeps a steady hand on his cast to ensure that no one, not even the comical neighbors next door, ever let the affair cross the line from serious drama to melodrama. The set, costumes, hair, and make-up are all fine representations of the period. Pensis also did the lighting design which evokes the bright daytime moments and darker nighttime scenes with a stirring simplicity.

All My Sons addresses a multitude of themes, from family loyalty to moral responsibility. Yet it is also an honest portrayal of how sometimes the path to succeed can be filled with dishonesty and disillusionment. Arthur Miller's play is full of revelations and soul searching with an ending that packs a punch. Grand Canyon University's production is top-notch, with a gifted cast and solid direction.

Grand Canyon University College of Fine Arts and Production's All My Sons runs at GCU's Ethington Theatre through February 21st, 2016. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix and ticket and performance information for this show and their upcoming productions can be found at www.gcu.edu/events/ethington-theatre.php or by calling (602) 639-8880

Written by Arthur Miller
Director: Claude Pensis
Scenic Designer/Properties Designer: William H. Symington V
Lighting Designer: Claude Pensis
Costume Designer: Nola Yergen
Hair and Makeup Designers: Bri Ha-Nguyen & Marija Petovic
Sound Designer: Stacee Martinez

Cast:
Joe Keller: Scott Campbell
Kate Keller: Natalie S. Ward
Chris Keller: Keach Siriani-Madden
Ann Deever: Jamie Coblentz
George Deever: Hayden Domenico
Frank Lubey: Jeremiah Byrne
Lydia Lubey: Amber Warner
Jim Bayliss: Taylor Kortman
Sue Bayliss: Brenna Warren
Bert: John Cotoia


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