Dramaworks opens new home in superb style with 'All My Sons'
Arthur Miller's 1947 drama All My Sons, his first commercial success on Broadway, has numerous thematic and narrative similarities to Death of a Salesman, the Pulitzer Prize winner that premiered two years later. But if the earlier play has been under the shadow of the playwright's masterwork, you would never know it from the powerful new production at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Long on the West Palm Beach company's to-do list, it deferred producing All My Sons until moving into its new home, the far roomier, yet still intimate performance space created from the former Cuillo Centre for the Arts. There it benefits from a stunning two-story set by resident designer Michael Amico, a richly detailed, lived-in Ohio home, porch and backyard of the Keller family. The set is a marvel, but with the cast that director J. Barry Lewis has assembled and guided through Miller's many figurative land mines, this All My Sons would be a shattering dramatic experience if it were played on a bare stage. ...Joe Keller is a close cousin to Willy Loman, and even though "death" is not in the title, his downfall is foreshadowed from the moment actor Kenneth Tigar enters the stage. Miller charts that decline through a series of coincidences and melodramatic confrontations, ... [that] do not prevent the diminutive Tigar from giving a towering performance that demands to be seen. Genial and folksy with his neighbors early on, Tigar becomes gradually hemmed in by Joe's past, and he lashes out with the bellowing bluster of a broken man. He is the reason this All My Sons is a must-see experience, but the entire ensemble as Dramaworks contributes to the forceful production. ...The points Miller loses for neatness, he more than makes up in dramatic ferocity. In this, he has a skillful accomplice in director Lewis, who understands the value of the initial languid pace and when to open up the throttle for maximum impact. In the opening production of its 12th season, Palm Beach Dramaworks more than justifies its multimillion-dollar gamble on its move to the Don & Ann Brown Theatre. Without negating any of its worthy past work, this feels like a brawny new company, flexing its muscles, inviting the community into its new playhouse for many new dramatic adventures to come.