Stratford Festival’s “All My Sons”

I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with Arthur Miller’s works, I’ve been reading his plays since grade 12 and frequently found that I was disappointed; in the characters or the plot trajectory, nothing really grabbed me. All My Sons did everything but disappoint. Honestly, it totally redeemed Miller in my opinion, with this gripping, troubling, beautiful play.

I found that the themes of this play were very similar to some of Miller’s other works. All My Sons focuses on the relationship between father and son, and how the “American Dream” fits into that relationship. In this case, Joe Keller wants his business to be passed down to his sons, so he makes questionable decisions to ensure that that’s able to happen. Where we see the real tension is between the older generation’s idea of what is necessary versus the younger generation; as the information of the true events of Keller and his former business partner Mr. Deever get revealed it becomes more and more of a burden on Chris, Joe’s son. We see, in two very different ways (through the Keller’s and the Deevr’s), how the sins of the fathers are visited on their sons: one is through anger and mistrust, the other a crushing guilt.

Kate Keller is convinced that her elder son, Larry, who is MIA from the war, is bound to come home. We watch as it consumes her waking and sleeping thoughts. She evens involved her neighbours in trying to convince the rest of the family that she must be correct and Larry must be alive. Her passion boarders on insanity, and yet we see that come crashing to reality when Ann Deever (who used to be Larry’s girlfriend but is now beloved of Chris) shows Kate a letter which Larry sent to her just before he disappeared. It was one of the most striking moments in the play, as Kate reads the letter, she only lets out one shriek, one moment of total release, and then it’s as if all of her sanity has been restored. Instead of destroying her, which I thought it would, the letter makes her somehow more resolute and strong. The change was so instantaneous and the opposite of what I expected, I was floored.

With the play being performed as theatre in the round, these difficult issues and moral crises were inescapable, and I loved it. While the set itself was beautiful and you truly feel like you’re in a beautiful backyard, there was a moment where I realized that there was no way out, for the characters or for us as audience members. Because you are denied the esthetic distance of a proscenium stage, it forces you to be just as involved as the characters are and go on the ride with them, for better or for worse.  

This play was superbly acted, they left you no choice but to care deeply about the characters on stage. Lucy Peacock and Joseph Zeigler lead the cast as Mr and Mrs Keller, providing passionate perofmances that cut to the core. Tim Campbell’s performance as Chris Keller was marvellous, his emotions reached out to every member of the audience, and he had us all feeling heartbroken by the end of the play. Sarah Afful and Michael Blake play Ann and George Deever, who have such drastically different relationships with the Kellers that it hardly seems like they’re related at all, yet their performances were equally beautiful, showing how one event can impact people so differently. Supported by the talents of E.B. Smith, Lanise Antione Shelley, Rodrigo Belifuss, Jessica B. Hill, Maxwell Croft-Fraser, and Brandon Scheidler, this was a well constructed cast without a weak link. 

All My Sons is a play that will leave you puzzling and thinking long after the performance is done. This amazing production only runs until Sunday, so get your tickets now!

Stratford Festival’s “Bunny”

I was fortunate enough to attend the first preview of Bunny back on July 29th. It’s absolutely exhilarating to know that you’re in the first performance of a show, especially when it’s a brand new Canadian play. Bunny is a fascinating story which is masterfully told by the Stratford Cast.

The piece is narrated by Sorrel, played by Maeve Beatty, as she goes through some of the most pivotal points in her life thus far. We watch as Sorrel goes from being painfully shy and unliked, so desirable (albeit still rather shy); the way her awkwardness was captured and expressed was so beautifully real, I absolutely loved it. It was incredible to watch her begin to own her womanhood in a deeply sexual way which is usually shied away from on stage.

Once she gets to college, she meets Maggie, who calls Sorrel “bunny” because she’s always nervous “like a rabbit.” Maggie becomes Sorrel’s lifelong friend, and as their bond strengthens and their lives intertwine more and more, we see the kinds of true connections Sorrel becomes capeable of.

The cast is small but mighty, helmed by Beatty and Krystin Pellerin, with amazing performances by Tim Campbell, Cryus Lane, David Patrick Flemming, Jessica B Hill and Emilio Vieira.

One of the aspects I loved the most was how Sorrel was rarely (if ever) off stage. She transformed physically before our eyes, always in a blue dress with some form of brown shoes and accessories. She was aided in these transformations by the other characters, giving us a glimpse at their relationship usually encore we’re ever introduced to them. The set was also simple, but had many moving parts which where also operated by the actors; it was the perfect embodiment of how others shape our lives.

Maggie’s character really touched my heart, for many reasons, but mostly I think because I saw much more of myself in her than I did in Sorrel. But with my Mother being a Breast Cancer Survivor as well, the play really hit home. It was written so beautifully and with so much truth about our society, I look forward to seeing it staged and restaged for years to come.

Bunny only runs until September 24th, so get your tickets before this amazing and moving production is gone!!