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Dramaworks stages a tour de force

Nov 15 2011
Christine Dolen | Miami Herald

Arthur Miller's timeless play launches a season and a space for the West Palm Beach company. Arthur Miller's All My Sons was the great playwright's first Broadway success. Topically raw when it debuted in 1947, this homespun American tragedy explores a businessman's decision to put family and fortune before morality. Though it takes place not long after the end of World War II, All My Sons still has dramatic weight, contemporary resonance and the ability to deeply touch an audience, setting off gasps and calling forth tears. Should you doubt the enduring power of the play, do make it a point to see Palm Beach Dramaworks' superb new production of All My Sons. No matter where you live in South Florida, this one is so worth the drive. The first show in Dramaworks' beautifully cozy new home at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre (formerly the Cuillo Centre for the Arts) on Clematis Street, All My Sons certainly meets the high standards set by the company since its founding 11 years ago. While retaining intimacy and expanding its seating capacity, Dramaworks has gained the ability to do more with design — and what the team pulls off for All My Sons is stunning. Walk into the theater space and you see what appears to be a weathered two-story house of the kind still found all over small-town America. Inspired set designer Michael Amico gives the play's focal Keller family a lived-in home, with vintage-looking curtains inside the second-floor bedroom window and paint peeling off the furniture that dots the back yard. Sound designer Richard Szczublewski contributes chirping birds and haunting music, while lighting designer John Hall gives us the dappled leafy shadows from unseen trees. Costume designer Brian O'Keefe wordlessly evokes the late ‘40s... ...Under J. Barry Lewis' astute, graceful direction, the cast...crafts a collection of stirring, deep performances. [Kenneth] Tigar roars as Joe, a little man with a big secret. [Elizabeth] Dimon's breakdown when she learns the truth about her beloved lost son is monumentally moving. [Jim] Ballard and [Kersti] Bryan are beguiling as a couple trying to love in a world that would deny them. [Cliff] Burgess rides a roller coaster of emotions, from fury to nostalgic relief. All My Sons, so grand and so intimate, is the kind of large-cast drama that...rarely gets written any more. But thanks to Dramaworks' devotion to American classics, you can experience Miller's play again — or for the first time. And you should.