Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 22, 2024

Review: Hartford Stage, “All My Sons”

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through May 5, 2024
by Shera Cohen

My Plus 1 for “All My Sons” at Hartford Stage told me, “I prefer to attend dramatic plays [to any other genre]”. Arthur Miller’s classic “All My Sons” is about as dramatic any piece of theatre can be.

Entering the theatre takes patrons directly onto the set; stepping through grass with tree stumps in view next to a large house. Staging creates the home of the Keller family in the 1940’s/50’s. Just about everything seems right as houses and backyards go, yet a small torn-down tree, situated front and center, works as a foreboding sign important to the plot.

Joe and Kate Keller (Michael Gaston and Marsha Mason, respectively) are in their early 60’s, have lived in this “anywhere” town for decades. They know their neighbors. The neighbors think they know the Kellers. Yet the play is packed with a giant secret, at first shrouded in light-hearted, off-the-cuff banter, developing slowing into emotional, and even physical chaos.

Although the Keller’s elder son, Larry, had died in WWII three year ago, he is ever-present, just as the tree, planted in his memory. Younger son, Chris (Ben Katz) is left with the scars of his brother, parents, girlfriend, as well as the lives others left behind.

Family issues are at the forefront: loyalty, loathing, varying degrees of truth and lies, mystery, most importantly denials . There are many questions for an audience member to  take home. The overall question is “When do morals supersede extremely difficult situations?”

Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Gaston takes the lead as the erstwhile patriarch of the family. From the start, Gaston portrays a tortured man with an exterior of bravado, which the audience immediately observes. The actor’s facial expressions, voice, and stance are accentuated as the story progresses.

Marsha Mason, a well-known actress usually in light roles on television and movies, musters her metal as Kate Keller, portraying the epitome of denial regarding her son’s death. The audience can feel her pain.

Fiona Robberson and Reece Dos Santos, portray sister and brother Ann and George. Their roles are smaller than others, yet their characters are pivotal. There is never hesitation that the conflicts in the plot effect each character’s future.

Melia Bensussen, HS Artistic Director takes on double duty as “AMS” director, keeping the pace smooth and rapid, especially in Act II, when onstage  conflicts are at peak level. No more mystery and inuendo. It’s Bensussen’s job to permit Arther Miller’s characters to peel off the layers of deceit. And it’s the audience’s job to see how the artistic staff and superior actors manage to do this.