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All My Sons

David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker give superb performances in Howard Davies' must-see revival of Arthur Miller's classic tragedy. logo
Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet
in All My Sons
(© Nobby Clark)
Watching David Suchet reading the letter that crushes his character, Joe Keller in Arthur Miller's All My Sons, now being revived at the Apollo, is one of the sequences that define what people mean when they talk about consummate acting, and Zoe Wanamaker's unceasing grit as she expresses determination that her son Larry, reported missing in World War II, remains alive is another example of the superlative work that makes director Howard Davies' production an absolute must-see.

As a man initially at ease with his family -- particularly his adoring son Chris (Stephen Campbell Moore) -- Suchet puts his pit-bull body to affable use. But as Chris announces his intentions to marry Larry's intended bride Annie (Jemima Rooper) in the face of Kate's resistance and as obviously unhealed other psychological wounds re-open, Suchet gives a jolting account of Joe's need to maintain his innocence of past wrongdoing even as he steadily loses convincing leverage. His final heartbreaking confrontation with Chris has the audience gasping in one communal breath -- and through the wrangle, Moore gives as good as he gets.

Wanamaker nails Kate's anxiety from the moment she enters alone to weather the electrical storm Miller writes as prologue and as symbolic alarm for the eventual emotional uprooting. Behaving as if subtlety is her middle name, Wanamaker slowly shapes a character who knows more than she wants to know and is being plowed under by her internal struggle. She skillfully shows what it takes to be a woman loving a flawed husband (also a Miller objective in Death of a Salesman).

On William Dudley's middle-class-American house-and-front-lawn set -- one that's more realistic than Miller might have wished -- Davies puts his entire cast through the kind of effective paces that guarantee the wrenching denouement Miller so inexorably crafted. Rooper -- as lovely as she's more than once described -- doesn't miss blending Annie's devotion and need for Chris with her aim to bring painful truths to the surface if that's what's called for to free him from Kate. Daniel Lapaine as Annie's brother George, a man who's only just had the past revised properly for him, seethes appropriately, but not so much that his longing to return to the past as it seemed to be fails to shine through.

Steven Elder as Dr. Jim Bayliss and Tom Vaughn-Taylor as Frank Lubey, two neighbors loyal to the Kellers despite damning neighborhood gossip, do their jobs well, but Claire Hackett as Jim's discontented wife Sue is less than completely satisfactory. Indeed, her delivery represents a problem that mars the first act, where Davies lets more than a modicum of loud (aka American) line readings slip by.

As for the play itself, it still has a devastating impact, although some of the structure has begun to show signs of age. Nonetheless, time will never diminish Miller's desire to rub faces in the realities of corruption during a period when, at least from some vantage points, the future looked as bright as it ever has. The future that was truly bright was Miller's -- and his power to see people as simultaneously larger-than-life and smaller-than-life.

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