The first-rate revival of Arthur Miller's tragedy All My Sons at Guild Hall's John Drew Theater is a reason to celebrate theater out east. With a cast led by Alec Baldwin and Laurie Metcalf, under Stephen Hamilton's direction, the drama moves quickly through the moral dilemma of an American family post-World War II. The sons, one presumed dead, one alive, ask for accountability, a heavy load for Joe Keller -- that's Alec Baldwin, his baggy trousers skimming an ample belly held up by suspenders -- who is boss, businessman, and bully. When son Chris (Ryan Eggold) asks the big questions about his possible role in the deaths of 21 fighter pilots and the ruin of his partner's family, Joe defends himself. He's got a wife, Kate, submissive, damaged, but spiritual, performed by the formidable Metcalf, and a family to support, a good-enough reason to risk sending out faulty airplane parts from his factory -- and, in fact, to lie. To his sons, Chris and Larry, his ordinariness is crushing, tragic -- he was Father, better than this moral slide. They could accept no less in Miller's classic drama.
Much rests on Alec Baldwin's performance. While it takes a beat to get over that this is Alec Baldwin, he is a fine ensemble player, strutting and throwing his weight around, and attentive to everyone scene to scene. He had this kind of pivotal place in Orphans on Broadway a few seasons ago, allowing the actors Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge to shine. Joe's volatility with Kate, and with Chris, is powerhouse, but they give it back, as does Annie Deever (Caitlin McGee), Larry's one-time girl, now back for a visit with some revelations of her own.
The Kellers live in a fine house, Michael Carnahan's set showing an inventive inside staircase and an outside view on the porch, with trees in the front yard. Also noteworthy are Sebastian Paczynski's lighting and Amy Ritchings' costumes, especially when Annie returns home in a sundress that instantly shows the sophistication she's picked up in her move to New York City. David M. Brandenburg's original music and sound design is memorable, befitting a play that requires that characters "figure it out, if you want to live."
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