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Review: Richmond Hill Players "All My Sons"

When did you first discover that your parents’ feet were made of clay? Was it devastating? Were you disillusioned? If so, multiply that by about a thousand and you’ll have just a glimpse into the web of deceit, guilt, blame and, ethics in Richmond Hill Players’ current production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, which won the 1946-1947 Drama Critic’s Award for Best Play, made all the more remarkable in that Miller was only 28 years old at the time.

Ably directed by Joe De Pauw, the action, which is based upon a real story, takes place in 1947 and involves two neighboring families. The patriarchs, Joe Keller and Steve Deevers were business partners in an airplane parts manufacturing plant. Along the way, some defective engine cylinder heads were shipped out for wartime aircraft which resulted in the death of 21 airmen. Both are later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison, but Keller is eventually – under somewhat sketchy circumstances - exonerated and released. He returns to the lucrative business of a wartime government supplier.

We come to learn that Joe Keller, and his wife Kate, sent two sons to war. Chris returned and is being groomed to take over the business. Larry’s status is MIA. As a result, Kate refuses to accept that Larry is dead and for three long years is haunted by the hope that he’ll be found and insists everything must remain as it was before he left for the war. From there, both families become entangled in a web that ensnares both Chris and Deevers’ daughter and son, Annie and George. Annie was once Larry’s fiancé, so Kate cannot accept the engagement of Chris and Annie. After George visits his father in prison, the past’s narrative radically changes. Who was really at fault all those years ago? From here they spiral down a rabbit hole where Chris’ perception of, and respect for, his father – and himself – is utterly changed. Coming to terms with the truth ends tragically.

Heading up this cast as Joe Keller is prolific Quad City actor, Jim Driscoll. His portrayal is intense and gripping. Carol Neuleib as the emotionally frail Kate is both sympathetic and manipulative. Justin Raver as Chris Keller is smooth and natural and he handles the evolution from tacit denier to explicit acceptance masterfully. Lesley Day as Ann Deevers returns to RHP for her second role after a 17-year hiatus from acting; the absence did not dilute the range of her talent especially transitioning from the juvenile daughter in Leaving Iowa to the engaging fiancé in this show.

I have to give a shout-out to second-grader Jake Turner as the young Bert. Although he rushed his lines a bit, which I chalked up to youth and opening night excitement, his lines were spot on solid. Although a small part he delivered the goods in a big way. Well done, Jake!

I had one problem with this show. That was the costuming which was uneven. Kate and Ann were costumed appropriately for post-World War II. However another female character was dressed in a long denim skirt with a gingham shirt and ankle high boots. She looked more like she belonged in a production of Annie Get Your Gun. DePauw should have overruled the costumer on that decision.

That flaw aside, this is a well-performed, thought-provoking production well worthy of the trip out to Geneseo.

All My Sons continues at Richmond Hill Players, 600 Robinson Drive, Thursday through Saturday, November 17 through November 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 20 at 6:00 p.m.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.