St. Pierre Sells Out Steinbach;

The text of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons deals with the idea of having a “star of honesty.” The Phillips Academy Theater 520 production of this show revealed the stars of the Theater Department. The powerful combination of a skilled director, talented cast, and magnificent set design gave the community the opportunity to see the impact of faculty and student contribution to PA theater. Leaving the final performance this past Saturday, several people commented that this was the best show they had seen all year. For many others, All My Sons was the best show they had seen performed on an Academy stage. Instructor in English and Theater Jean St. Pierre has an impressive reputation as a director, which she certainly lived up to for this show. Her casting choices brought together an interesting ensemble that, under her guidance, came together to create a great dynamic on stage. St. Pierre’s obvious effort came through by observing the meticulous enhancements to the characters, the set, and the text. The show followed a natural rhythm of action increase and decrease. Scenes progressed well to their climax, yet still remained engaging during trivial dialogue. Chair of the Theater and Dance Department Bruce Bacon’s elaborate set design gave the actors a realistic sphere in which to work. No detail was missing, right down to the garden hose and utility meter on the side of the yellow paneled house. It was essential to the play to have the ambience of a neighborhood and a home. Since the play centers on the calamity of the Keller family, the set needed to allow the audience to fit into their space and experience a feeling of immersion in their world. The white picket fence surrounding the yard helped create a barrier between the external society and the secret affairs of the Keller household. The house served as Joe Keller’s domain, allowing him to express his superiority and paternal position. Bacon paid special attention to the importance of the symbolic Larry’s tree, bringing in an actual broken fir. The proper course was set, and the stage was assembled to perfection, but in the end, it was the supreme acting that made the show such a success. The students took what their teachers provided and developed incredibly complex characters that told a thrilling story. Among the veteran actors, Stephen Travierso ’04 played the lead as the Joe Keller. Travierso is popular for his comedic roles in various shows and participation in campus improvisational troupes. Through Joe Keller, Travierso showed how capable he is of playing a very serious role. His walk, accent, mannerisms, and attitude all reflected a polished character completely new to Travierso’s image. Similarly, Boo Littlefield ’03 is most commonly recognized for her outrageous humor and as an outgoing leader on campus. Littlefield’s portrayal of Annie Deever displayed her capacity to push the limits to the extreme. The elegance and compassionate nature Littlefield brought to the role led to the creation of the adorable “gorgeous girl next door” image. Littlefield captured the essence of Annie Deever and won the hearts of the audience as the romantic leading lady. Chiara Motley ’03 and Josh Williams ’03 took a very different approach than that of Travierso and Littlefield, but the final product was just as intriguing. Motley depicted Kate Keller well by appearing poised and orderly on the surface while still acknowledging the underlying psychological issues her character faced. Williams’s character, Chris Keller, was much less complex than Motley’s, yet he still brought the exaggerated emotions the role called for to life. Although his part of George Deever was smaller in comparison, Matt London ’03 made a large impact on the play nonetheless. Featured in Act Two only, London had the challenge of changing the direction of the show with little stage time. He succeeded in doing so by manifesting a character that contrasted sharply with his castmates. Both physically and dramatically, London seized the gravity of his role. Jack McCallum ’03, Amy Stebbins ’03, Paul Chiozzi ’03, and Alison Schouten ’04 gave the play a sense of the time period and feeling of community. These actors presented their characters with ease. McCallum and Schouten in particular settled into parts with which they have had a fair amount of experience, McCallum as an intellectual and well-spoken adult, and Schouten as an innocent and delightfully nervous woman. Representing the neighbors with obvious personality quirks, these four supported the difficult tasks set before the main roles. Their sporadic encounters with the Kellers ran steadily through the first two acts. The absence of these characters in the final act narrowed the energy down to the four main characters and brought the show to its intense conclusion. Travierso, Motley, Littlefield, and Williams executed the final act with perfection. Each character underwent a profound transition and demonstrated a loss of control, which these actors delivered with remarkable skill. Travierso dropped his guard and slowly let the controlling demeanor of Joe Keller fade into its vulnerable, guilty counterpart. Chiara’s ever-present smile gave way with the collapse of Kate Keller’s composure. Littlefield took Annie Deever to a new level of courage and strength as she let go of the sweetheart image and faced the harsh reality of the circumstances. Meanwhile, Chris Keller also discarded his pleasant manner and took a stand as the strong-minded man that he had become. The tension rose with the actor’s voices, and emotions went every which way. All of the anxiety mounted to the point when Joe Keller confronted the murderer within himself. Consequently, Keller took his own life. The shot of the blank reverberated through Steinbach Theater and startled the audience right out of their seats. Bewildered, the audience waited for a reaction from the characters. Motley and William’s sobbing embrace ended the show with a visual work of art, completely appropriate to this masterpiece of a production.