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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

NoVa Woodbridge Theatre Group All My Sons

By • Nov 18th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
NoVa Woodbridge Theatre Group
Lakeside Theater-NVCC Woodbridge Campus, Woodbridge, VA
Through November 21st
$10/$5 Students, Faculty, Children, Military
2:25 with one intermission
Reviewed Opening Night, November 12th, 2009

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is an emotionally charged, heart-breaking story about a family torn apart by the twin vices of scandal and denial. Unfortunately, this production, directed by NVCC Theater Department’s E.W. Trumbull, was miserable. Acting, with only few exceptions, was rote at best. Visually the production was a mish-mash of modern and period. The set was incompatible with the production, and the lighting was insufficient to light the whole stage. All My Sons was a disappointment opening night and has a lot of room for improvement.

Overall impressions of this production pointed to one source: very weak direction. Backstage, the actors were noisy and chatty. Onstage, the actors looked and sounded uncomfortable. Blocking frequently took them to shadowed parts of the stage where their faces were hidden and acoustics were muffled. Natural build-up in the most intense scenes was tragically absent. Small body language that was difficult to see lent to the emotional stagnation of the show. The story took a long time to develop. Pacing was slow and dry. It seems as though the students were given a script and a few resources and told to “put on a play.”

The acting in this show was effectively abysmal. Lines were barely memorized and rarely delivered in character. Actors looked directly at the audience on several occasions. Dynamic was practically non-existent. No character relation was conveyed through vocal inflection or physical interaction. Instead, the stage was full of tree-people: actors who stood with arms crossed or hands at their sides.

It was fifteen minutes before the first genuine character entered and rescued the stage. Chris Keller, played by Clay Powell, was an emotional and dynamic character that had a lot of potential. While he is also guilty of emotional spikes without sufficient build-up, he was the saving grace of the leading cast of characters.

Another actor of note was Katy Chmura in the role of Sue Bayliss. Her part was quite small, but she demonstrated excellent pacing and characterization. Chmura’s grasp of her character’s motivations and personality were sterling, especially in the short scene she shared with Ann Deever (Ashleigh McPherson).

Costumes, designed by Dustin Schade, made some effort to be period, but only half succeeded since they were largely drawn from the actors’ closets. This saved on the costume budget, but made the production look too modern. On the other hand, the cowboy costume used for Bert, a eight year-old character played by a college student, was absolutely adorable.

There were three props in this show. One was a set of ivy-wrapped pewter cups with a matching ivy-wrapped pewter pitcher. These were tacky to the utmost. The concept was far too fantastical for a practical production like All My Sons. Another prop was an empty picnic basket. It was brought onstage, fidgeted with, and then left onstage for no apparent reason. The final prop was a letter which was the most effectively used prop in the entire production.

Upon first inspection, the set was actually quite pretty. It had some texture and was large enough to accommodate some fun action. It was aesthetically pleasing, and a “spillover effect” at the edge of the stage was distinctive. However, once the story was applied, the set made no sense. Instead of a small-town house with a yard, the action seemed to take place in a woodland clearing with a boulder and a couple tree stumps. This inconsistency coupled with weak use of set pieces demonstrates the failure of the principle of designing the stage according to the play.

Lights were insufficient for the size of the stage and location of the action. Splotchy illumination left gaping holes at center stage and stage right where a fair amount of acting took place. At other times, especially in act two, the lighting was too dark, making it hard to focus on the actors.

One sound effect was used to mimic a thunderstorm in the beginning of the production. The thunder effect was cut off and the result was a tacky beginning. Music was used to accentuate the emotion of the production. The primary selected piece was quite lovely and effectively captured the emotion of the script. However, the track changed at a pivotal point in the show and came off as hugely cheesy, effectively destroying the moment. It seems to me that it would have been better to maintain the continuity of the subtle drama rather than try and escalate it with a bad music track.

Theater, especially learning about theater, should be a fun experience. I suppose that if the cast and crew enjoyed “putting on a play” and learned something through it, then they should consider the show a success.

Cast

  • Joe Keller: Butch Mahaney
  • Kate Keller: Claire Veneziano
  • Chris Keller: Clay Powell
  • Ann Deever: Ashleigh McPherson
  • George Deever: Daniel Jacobsen or Isaac Bennett
  • Dr. Jim Bayliss: Nathan Johns
  • Sue Bayliss: Katy Chmura
  • Frank Lubey: Mike Burns
  • Lydia Lubey: Ashley Champagne or Kimberly Morris
  • Bert: Scott Morgan

Technical Staff

  • Director: E.W. Trumbull
  • Assistant to the Director: Joel Morris
  • Stage Manager: Andrew Buning
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Katy Chmura
  • Lighting/Sound: Chris Young, Melissa Runyon
  • Costumes: Dustin Schade
  • Set Construction: Scott Markley, Joel Morris, Melissa Runyon, Dustin Schade, Mel Aubrey, Topaz Campbell, Cast and Crew
  • Flyer: Melanie Mahaney

Disclaimer: NoVa Woodbridge Theatre Group provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

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