Diary of a 520: All My Sons Moves Forward With Production

The wooden skeleton of a house looms upward towards the ceiling. It stands on a sturdy wooden porch that glistens in the darkened theatre. Just two weeks ago there was nothing but a naked Steinbach stage. It seems that each day, something temporary is added to our makeshift set. First it was nothing, then a porch, then the makings of a house. As rehearsals for All My Sons continue and the bare stage begins to grow, so do each of Arthur Miller’s remarkably three-dimensional characters. The actors in this term’s Theatre 520 have a long way to go, but they stand strong already – just three weeks into rehearsal. Our play is signature Miller, incorporating the tribulations of a father-son relationship and a lovable, incredibly human protagonist. The story is that of Joe Keller, the sixty-something Mid-western factory owner whose company made parts for P-40 planes during World War II. He and his partner, Steve, were tried for knowingly sending out faulty parts that crashed twenty-one American jets. While Joe gets off free, Steve is sent to jail. Three years later, a lazy August Sunday heats up when Annie, former girl-next-door girlfriend of Larry (the Keller’s son, missing in action from the war) and daughter to Steve visits the Kellers, in hopes of gaining approval to marry Chris, Larry’s brother. Family feuding soon ensues due to matriarch Kate Keller’s steadfast belief that Larry is alive and the dark secrets that boil beneath the surface of their seemingly happy life. Written in traditional heart-wrenching Miller style, the play takes a dark and twisted view of American family values. I come early to rehearsal to recite lines and watch each member of the intimate cast fill the theatre. Josh Williams ’03, ever early, shuffles into the room, picks up a broom and begins sweeping. Josh, I think to myself, has been developing his character, Chris Keller, brilliantly. Already his beat to beat objectives are becoming clear, and he seems to embody Chris in a way that nobody else could. Josh, in establishing his relationship with Annie Deever, has run into some difficulties balancing an affection towards her and his own path to self-discovery. The character is changed forever from his experience in the war. It’s obvious to me that Josh has been working diligently on his character’s monologues; there was one at the end of Act II that gave me chills. As I think about all of the unnerving monologues in the show, Steve Travierso ’04 appropriately strolls through the door. Steve and Josh have it harder than any of the rest of us in terms of learning lines, but nevertheless are off-book. Playing the jovial, though misguided Joe Keller, Steve faces a challenge. Miller writes his character as constantly conflicted between his ignorance of the outside world and his commitment to his family. He’s been developing his haphazard father-son relationship with Chris as well as representing the “tragic hero” in suburban America, and is now working hard to establish his traits of likeability. Following close behind Steve is Chiara Motley ’03, playing Kate. Chiara keeps an air of dignity about her. Working with her in rehearsal, I am convinced by her proud and ornery portrayal. Chiara plays her characters off-the-mark lines so simply that the naturalness of her convictions is eerie. Chiara begins chatting with Matt London ’03, and they are soon joined by Steve. As the three joke and laugh, I think about how well our intimate cast gets along, despite the fact that we do some serious screaming at each other. I suppose in a show so somber, you have to maintain a sense of humor. Matt plays George Deever, brother to Annie. His enters in the second act, in which he’s angry and bitter at Joe Keller. He believes that Joe is guilty and doesn’t want Annie to marry Chris. From the beginning, Matt has astounded me with his character development. He knows the script inside and out, and he has begun to take his anger to the right levels. His passion is clear on stage, especially during rehearsal last week when he accidentally threw me into the staircase! (I was fine – just a few broken bones.) I gaze to the corner of the room and notice that Amy Stebbins ’03 has crept in. She’s murmuring her lines to herself and I think how hard she’s been working on the show. Playing Sue Bayliss, neighbor to the Kellers, Amy gets to deliver a few wickedly evil lines and does some good work in a fight between Sue and Annie. Jack McCallum ’03 plays Sue’s husband, Jim Bayliss, a man with high ideals but must compromise them to make money. I really admire Jack’s understated work in the show. He keeps poise and simplicity while saying some of the best lines in the play : “Every man does have a star. The star of one’s honesty. And you spend your life groping for it, but once it’s out it never lights again.” Behind me, Ali Schouten ’04 and Paul Chiozzi ’03 joke with each other. Playing Lydia and Frank Lubey (also neighbors to the Kellers), the two are coming up with an excellent chemistry. Ali’s flighty but lovable charactercomplements Frank’s good-hearted and sometimes dim-witted nature. Ali is also doing nice work with Matt, whose character hers used to date before the war. Miss St. Pierre finally shuffles in, cheerful as ever (even in the dreary weather), and I think to myself about something she said the other day: “Miller writes it so that every one of these characters is crucial to the play.” It’s true. And everyone’s doing a great job. I hop off to the chair to join warm-ups. Playing Annie Deever, I’m working on pinning down the affection in my relationship with Chris, as well as my overall objective of figuring our why exactly it is that I have come to the Kellers. I haven’t found it yet, but I will. We all will, and this term’s Theatre 520 will certainly be a powerful one.