Entries in William Brown (2)



Family and their Fortunes Deftly Define APT’s All My Sons

Who becomes a person’s family---sons and daughters, fathers and mothers in today’s world? Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Miller’s first successful play All My Sons resonates with these contemporary questions at the American Players Theatre Up the Hill stage this season.   

Set in the summer of 1947 in the aftermath of World War II,  the script’s three families meet in the backyards of their Wisconsin homes, an ordinary neighborhood, after a night’s thunderstorm. However, Miller’s play based on a true story unleashes the storms of life that are only beginning on this August morning and become deftly directed by William Brown. 

In this very private setting, the Kellers, Bayliss and Lubey families tend the ground between their perceived lives and realities. And Annie Deever, a former resident, has returned to visit at Chris Keller’s request. While Annie was “going with” Chris’s brother, Larry, Larry has been reported missing in action for three years. And though Chris served in the war and returned, he now wishes to propose to Annie although his mother Kate waits for Larry’s return. In her mind, Larry is only lost instead of killed from a flying mission. 

Annie’s father Steve and Joe Keller worked in a business together, making parts for war planes, when an entire shipment cracked. The defects were covered up in hopes of being discovered after more were manufactured and could be resent. This opportunity failed, and so did the parts, causing 21 pilots to crash on flight missions.While Joe and Annie’s father were arrested and put on trial,  Joe was exonerated, although Steve remains in prison, which caused Annie and her brother, George, and their mother to move away, perhaps to discover the real truth. 

And so from these multiple losses, each member in this community wrestles with social responsibility, covering up what they believe they know, the ravages of war, protecting their families and the price of a monetary fortune won or lost.

“Money, money, money, money,” Jim Bayliss repeats. He’s a physician who really wishes to do research, yet research pays very little compared to an individual practice. Bayliss continues, “If you say it enough, it doesn’t mean anything.. Wish I would be around when that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Chris Keller struggles with the large amounts of money his father, Joe, still makes from the mechanical parts business. Fortunes were made and lost during World War II, in currency and lives. Chris lremembers he ost his entire battalion in several missives and feels the weight of this responsibility, his idealistic notions, where everyone is their brother’s keeper. A principle in the new world to come, where  “our” brother as Chris says, “Is s a love another man has for a man.”

On opening night, what made Miller’s story come alive again with these timeless questions was a riveting APT cast centered by Jonathan Smoots and Sarah Day in the roles of Joe and Kate Keller. Smoots’ talented egacy at APT crystallized his affection for his son and love for his wife, emotions poignantly heartbreaking in the final scenes.

Marcus Truschinski radiates goodness from son Chris, so the words are believable when he says, “the wars should make us better,” whether spoken father to son, son to mother, or neighbor to neighbor. His lovely bride in waiting, the beautiful Kelsey Brennan, adds spunk to Annie Deever, the woman caught in the middle of the Deever tragedies. And while only supporting roles, the rest of the cast admirably fills in the neighborhood with characters that enlighten Miller’s action further. 

Kevin Depinet’s lush, green set design envisions a picture perfect American life exactly as the trellis covered in red roses does on his stage. Life unexpectedly blooms like roses while uncovering the thorns on the vines underneath without trying to destroy the beauty in the petals A beauty seen in costumes designed by Rachel Anne Healy. 

That’s what a war, and sometimes daily living, does, when Keller admits, “I had two sons and now there’s one, war changed all the tallies.”

And yes, Miller ends his play similar to a Greek tragedy where another human person dies to right a wrong, to change the tallies in his family's history again. This reviewer shamelessly shed a few tears at the conclusion, for the tallies changed or invested in war, fathers, sons, and now daughters, fortunes, lovers and their lives, often lost. Miller’s characters grieved, survived, went forward, and so will the audience while they ponder who in the world constitutes their own fathers and sons, mothers and daughters? What events and persons will make them better people in spite of life’s tragedies.  

American Players Theatre presents Arthur Miller's All My Sons through the remaining 2013 season at the Up the Hill Theatre. For further information or tickets, please call 608.588.2361 or click the APT link to the left.   By Peggy Sue Dunigan




William Shakespeare’s The History of Troilus and Cressida presents a grim picture of war and the world in which it prevails, while the Trojans and Greeks wage untold battles over the exquisite Queen Helen for seven years. At Spring Green’s Up the Hill Theatre last weekend, American Players Theatre premiered a Troilus & Cressida that chilled the audience as much as the Spring Green night air on an August evening.

A play written or performed somewhere between 1600 and 1610, this Shakespeare evening requires a focused audience for the emotionally and intellectually demanding performance. APT stages a dauntless production because of the brutal battle scenes, numerous cast members and lengthy running time, over three hours with intermission. However, for those who attend the performance, the outdoor experience pays magnificent dividends to appreciate the rarely performed play.

The original story culled from history and several outside sources, including perhaps the scripts from the great Greek tragedian Euripides, uncovers the uncouth humanity in gods, goddesses, and the supposed divinity assigned to kings, rulers and war lords. Shakespeare follows the lead in his play that defies a specific genre, with aspects of comedy, history and tragedy that adds a dose of satire to his script when it scrutinizes these famous personas that history admired although were certainly flawed.    

Director William Brown mines the humor in APT’s production, expertly generated in the first act with resident actor James DeVita. He navigates the rough territory as Pandarus, an uncle and Trojan protector of his niece, Cressida. His aging character given little power, Pandarus uses only his clever words and less than heroic deeds to make life right where wrong lies. DeVita proves this when he sings Shakespeare’s very comic/tragic love song: “Love, love nothing but love, still love, still more, “ and eventually convinces a handsome Nate Burger as Prince Troilus to woo Laura Rock appearing as an ambivalent, handsome Cressida. 

Contrast that with Thersites, a superb portrayal of the pitiful Greek acted by La Shawn Banks, who rails that “there’s nothing but war and lechery....to confound all….and love is death, swooning destruction.” His comments spread with spite when Cressida is traded to the Greeks for an important Trojan warrior. Now separated from Troilus, Cressida cavorts with Travis A. Knight’s sexually persuasive Diomedes, to the Prince’s distress.   

The war begins again all for the sake of Helen, who remains in the Trojan Camp, and this feminine/masculine trade only restarts the battle after a false truce. Oaths and vows now break, where words mean little to the deeds eventually done. Words spoken by Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, Hector, Paris, Ulysses, Troilus and Cressida, and other god-like persons, played by an superb supporting cast, display there ever despicable personal characteristics that crack through their respectable lives.   

Kevin Asselin’s realistic fight choreography invokes the audience to cringe when swords fly. Rachel Anne Healy’s elegant costume designs, diaphanous gowns ornamented in metallic gilt, meld seamlessly with technical skills from associated lighting, music and sound designers. APT stages a commanding play that dominates an evening as the actors travel the theatre aisles during the performance while the audience watches fitfully.    

In the hours after the performance feeling both discouraged and enthralled, one questions the reasons to why and when do wars attain honor and glory, to justify the resultant destruction? As the curse of Shakespeare’s Pandarus repeats in his epilogue, Shakespeare ponders the perverse in his play to make the audience review war’s consequences and the human condition that lay waste in the aftermath. An exceptional, yet uneasy story APT courageously delivers to their audience.

American Players Theatre presents Troilus & Cressida at the Up the Hill Theatre through October. Please consider dressing appropriately warm for these evenings, a pleasure outdoors under the stars. For further information and tickets, please call 608.588.2361 or click the link to the left.   by Peggy Sue Dunigan