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REVIEW: All My Sons

Ottawa Little Theatre’s recently opened All My Sons kicks off 2013 with the fourth show of their ten shows from ten decades 100th season. The award-winning, Arthur Miller penned drama is set shortly after the end of WWII and was previously produced by Ottawa Little Theatre in 1949 and then again in 1984.

Should you see it?

The only words I had when this play ended were: Wow. 

Going into All My Sons. I didn’t have high expectations. The first three shows of Ottawa Little Theatre’s 100th season were softballs. They were a fine night’s entertainment but largely forgettable when they were over. They didn’t have any wow factor and I basically expected All My Sons to be the same. Even the title sounds a bit soft, doesn’t it?

I was completely, completely wrong.

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was written and set in 1947, just on the tail of WWII. As it gets underway, we learn that the prodigal son of the Keller family was a pilot who went MIA three and a half years ago. Family matriarch Kate has never given up hope of her son’s return while  brother Chris and father Joe have tried to move on. With Chris on the verge of getting hitched to Annie Deever, the former girlfriend of his presumed dead brother, that’s what it initially feels like All My Sons will be about; letting go.

We’re slowly introduced to a second storyline concerning a criminal investigation which also happened several years prior. The investigation and subsequent trial nearly destroyed the Keller family and did destroy the Deever family when it ended with Joe Keller’s exoneration and the imprisonment of Annie’s father for the crime.

Just as this story becomes more dominant and you think the first story was simple flavor, things begin to move in ways that reveal just how intertwined both events are in the hearts and minds of the characters. This interweaving continues to build All My Sons into what is a deeply complex and thoroughly compelling drama – not at all a softball.

The follow-up question, naturally then, is: does the cast deliver.

They truly do.

Cheryl Jackson, Mike Kennedy, and Patrick MacIntyre, playing Kate, Joe, and Chris Keller respectively each have ample time to shine in this play and they do so brightly to deliver truly heart-wrenching performances, as does Anne van Leeuwen’s Annie Deever. Danny McLeod’s George Deever (Annie’s brother) initially put me off - I just wasn’t buying him - but he quickly won me over and joins the other main characters in deserving high praise in bringing this show to life.

I could get into minor nitpicks, primarily concerning the sound design, but they’re so unimportant in light of the strength of the cast and script and OLT’s usual caliber set design that it just didn’t matter in the long run.

All My Sons had me nearly completely engaged the entire time and is the kind of show that reminds me why I love the Ottawa Little Theatre, and theatre in general. I’ve mentioned before, though perhaps only on the podcast, how I’m slow to joining a standing ovation unless I really feel it. I was on my feet at the end of this one.

What a great start to 2013. Thanks, Ottawa Little Theatre.

What did you think? Did All My Sons exceed your expectations? Who stood out most among the cast? Join the discussion in the comments below.

All My Sons runs at Ottawa Little Theatre until January 26th. Get all the details here in our preview article.

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!


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