Wasatch Theatrical Ventures’ Production of “All My Sons” is Moving and Powerful

Review by: Peter Foldy

Although many refer to them as the greatest generation, Americans who fought World War II, or whose labor helped win it, had, like all generations, the potential for lapses in morality. Arthur Miller’s classic play, ALL MY SONS, first performed on Broadway in 1947,  highlights one such example. Though wrapped in the rhythm and style of the post war years, the incident at the heart of the story is easily relateable to what’s happening in our present day America.

Set in the summer of 1946, the story is deep and intricate. It deals with the Kellers, a nice family, on a seemingly ordinary day. Undeniable truths are finally catching up with them. A life-changing crisis is about to unfold.

Francesca Casale and Mark Belnick in All My Sons

Kate Keller (Francesca Casale) is unwilling to accept that her oldest son, Larry, has been lost in the war and may not be coming home. Her younger son, Chris, (Jack Tynan) also a veteran, is recovering from what we now call PTSD. Chris has fallen in love with his former next-door neighbor, Ann Deever, (Alexis Boozer Sterling) and is about to propose marriage. Ann, we soon discover, was Larry’s girl and Kate is dead set against the union. She insists that Ann wait for her oldest son to return.

Jack Tynan, Alexis Boozer Sterling and James McAndrew

Wealthy patriarch, Joe Keller (Mark Belnick) and Ann’s father were business partners accused of selling defective airplane parts that resulted in the death of 21 young fliers. The courts exonerated Joe and pinned the blame solely on Mr. Deever, who to this day sits in prison. Joe defends his motives and is reluctant to accept any blame, nor does he seek repentance. Many in the neighborhood doubt his innocence, and when Ann’s brother, George (James McAndrew) unexpectedly arrives, he shares hard to dispute evidence that Joe is in fact the guilty party. From here the play drifts towards it’s heart-wrenching conclusion that will deeply touch all their lives.

Ably directed by Gary Lee Reed and produced by Racquel Lehrman this production of All My Sons is a fluid, riveting drama that draws you in and doesn’t let go. An effective scenic designed by Pete Hickok effectively recreates a 1940s environment but it is the performances that drive this production. The quality of the acting is solid and committed. Everyone on stage gets their moment to shine and there are many standouts.

Francesca Casale, Alexis Boozer Sterling

Beckett Wilder (alternating with Jack Heath) has a brief but impressive turn as a young neighborhood boy. James McAndrew is compelling as George while Mark Belnick as Joe amps up his powerful moments, much like a prize fighter times his punches.

In an impressive performance, Francesca Casale breaks our hearts as the mother who wants her son back while Alexis Boozer Sterling delivers a Doris Day tinged sweetness as the girl who holds a secret nobody want to hear.

Jack Tynan centers the play. His Chris is both the protagonist and a victim here, a man with a moral compass looking for the truth. When his character falls to pieces in the last act, his pain is palpable. Tynan digs deep and makes some vulnerable choices that are filled with pain and emotion.

All My Sons is an American classic and this production at the Lounge Theatre does it right. Bring your handkerchiefs. You’re going to need them.

Where: The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90038

When: 8pm Fridays & Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays (No performances April 19 – 21)

Closing: May 12, 2019

How: For reservations call: (323) 960-5570 or online at: https://www.onstage411.com/sons

Tickets: $30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zulu Time Examines The Strains of War

Review by: Gordon Maniskas

The 1960’s were an era fraught with dramatic social change, ceaseless war, and young soldiers struggling to shoulder the burdens of an entire country. “Zulu Time” explores life on an aircraft carrier preparing to head off to Vietnam as the Navy Men on board grapple with rapidly changing racial dynamics. A talented ensemble cast breathes life into the poetic dialogue of playwright Chuck Faerber, as they confront societal issues that continue to plague America to this day.

The first act takes place off the coast of California as race riots break out on the mainland. While theyZ_T_0034 copy 2 watch the skies fill with the smoke of burning buildings, the Navy Men each deal with the racial tension in their own ways: African-American soldiers worry about the safety of their families, while most Caucasians are contemptuous of the minorities’ violent protests. When Ronnie, an African-American seaman (played by Christopher T. Wood) overhears racist slurs hurled by Page Boy, a pilot (played by David Ghilardi), he demands an apology, threatening to keep Page Boy grounded until he gets one. But, as Ronnie soon finds out, complaints of racism are of no concern to the ship’s commander. Though Wood’s natural, empathetic performance and Ghilardi’s surprisingly complex portrayal of a hardened racist are both effectively executed, the first act drags somewhat at times. Much of the action revolves around Ronnie’s stubborn demand for an apology – Z_T_0186 copy 2a noble goal, but not quite enough at times to propel the dramatic momentum through to the second act… Where everything is ramped up a notch.

The second Act deals with the carrier’s arrival in Vietnam. Now in the midst of a war zone, the characters have all been changed by bloodshed… one way or another. The piece truly takes off here, as the racial tensions are tested even further by the strain of war. An unlikely friendship forms between two Engineers, one Black and the other a closeted homosexual (played by Acquah Dansoh and Tony Grosz respectively), and they find themselves pitted against the closed-minded soldiers who are supposed to be their comrades. The second act is rife with conflict and intensity, and is gripping through the final, tragic moments.

The cast shines in this ensemble piece, some actors portraying multiple roles with nimble dexterity. Scott Keiji Takeda shines particularly brightly in the role of Yamato, a Japanese-American Navy Captain trying to shield Ronnie from the racist bureaucracy on the carrier. Centered, intense, and charming, his presence on the stage is magnetic. Takeda admirably wears the mantle of the moral center of the play, and his moments in the spotlight keep the audienceZ_T_0034 copy 2 in rapt attention. Also of note is Byron Hays as the ghostly “Mate of the Deck” who, bedecked in a sparkling white uniform, serves as the 4th-wall breaking narrator. The mastery delivery of his many soliloquy is always delightful, and adds a satisfying change of pace throughout. Trevor Larson as the ace pilot “Lone Star” radiates a youthful charisma and playfulness artfully balanced by moments of honest sensitivity. And, John Marzilli as Admiral Potter is an explosion of bombastic “Full Metal Jacket” military man. Gravelly voice, hard eyes, and a ferocious temper, he’s the man you love to hate… and watch.

But, the real star of the piece is the dialogue by Chuck Faerber. With colorful Navy jargon, florid prose rooted in honest Human emotion, and multiple poems recited throughout, the monologues and dialogue are written with consistent beauty. Complex characters in complex situations feeling complex emotions, and all presented simply enough to keep the audience along for the ride. The play has the feeling of a long-form poem at times, butZ_T_0050 copy 2 without ever being ostentatious.

Hats off to director Richard Kuhlman and set designer Gary Lee Reed for navigating the small performance space with such effectiveness. A single rolling walkway and a few platforms are choreographed to gracefully create a multitude of different settings. Several quasi-balletic sequences, lit by lighting designer Donny Jackson, provide whimsical, dream-like moments to balance to stark, exposed brightness of the other scenes. And, Gina Davidson’s costumes do a fantastic job differentiating between the varying Navy positions, substantially aiding the audience in understanding the complex hierarchy on the ship.

“Zulu Time” is a timely production, shining a light on the social injustices of the 60s and reflecting on how things may have (or may not have) changed since then. The cast’s strong performances of the richly crafted script makes this show well worth seeing.

WHEN: Runs July 11th through August 9th

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm

WHERE:

Hudson Theatre

6539 Santa Monica Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90038

CONTACT:

https://www.plays411.com/zulu

(323) 960-7740

General Admission: $25