Listening to the dialogue of a good old Arthur Miller play reminds you anew of why the guy is such a great writer. His ability to create mood, character and fill out the details in ordinary occurrences make him stand out from millions of competitors.
This time it’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production of his 1947 "All My Sons," a morality tale about a man who doesn’t realize that his responsibilities to people extend far beyond his immediate family.
Joe (union actor Steve Rapella) is enjoying a comfortable life with his family in small-town Ohio until son Chris (Brooks Asher) starts to question how the man made his fortune during the war. Wife Kate (Susan Lowe) doesn’t understand why, since the war is over, the whole matter can’t be dropped. But Chris and his fiancee, Ann (Savannah Smith), believe if Joe is guilty, there are consequences to be paid before the world can be "right" again.
Guest director Tom Markus and cast give us their best in the first act. You can practically smell the peacefulness in the air as you appreciate the good life that Joe has earned. (Heather M. Caliguire’s towering home and lived-in green frontyard set goes a long way in establishing the right kind of Midwest ambiance.)
The rock of the production is, surprisingly, Lowe in the secondary role of Kate. She comes off as chummy and grounded, and yet, there’s something eating at her that she can’t handle. She’s neurotic, all right, but you can see that she’s too sane to be neurotic for no reason. It’s through her eyes that we see the terrible cost of Joe’s actions.
Rapella is problematic. Too often, as an actor, when he attempts any kind of accent or change in physical posture, he becomes affected. You can enjoy Rapella for his technical expertise, but we never get to believe this is a breathing human being who really talks and walks this way. Lowe makes a connection to the audience; Rapella just dazzles.
The pace in the first act is beautifully leisurely. The second is often out-of-control melodrama. You can hardly spot the climax because the last scene is played the same way as the one before. Is there no other way to show anger than yelling?
Still, that first act is a near marvel. And Lowe is somehow able to carry the show on her shoulders — even though the script gives the burden to someone else.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: "All My Sons"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Judy Bayley Theatre, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Tickets: $20-$30 (895-2787)
MORE DEL VALLE REVIEWS
• "Antigone", Las Vegas Academy
• "The Taming of the Shrew", Utah Shakespearean Festival’s traveling production
Vegas Voice blog