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Alexis Denisof

Alexis Denisof - "All My Sons" Play - Audience riveted by classic drama

Philip Key

Friday 22 September 2006, by Webmaster

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Ann (Alice Patten) and Chris (Alexis Denisof) in Arthur Miller’s classic drama, All My Sons, at the Liverpool Playhouse

LIVERPOOL audiences can be notoriously noisy during plays. Last night at the Liverpool Playhouse you could hear a pin drop.

It was that sort of production, one which caught you by the throat from the opening scene and never let you go. Obviously Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is a classic drama from the 1940s, one about personal guilt, family and business corruption.

But director Gemma Bodinetz and a superb ensemble cast gave it a real edge: you believed in these characters, both loved and hated them and found yourself caught up in their personal tragedies.

Joe Keller is a businessman accused during wartime of manufacturing faulty aircraft parts.

Eventually found innocent, his partner has gone to prison for the crime.

Now his partner’s daughter Ann - the former girlfriend of Keller’s son missing in action - has arrived with plans to marry his son Chris. Unfortunately, Keller’s wife Kate is convinced the missing son is still alive.

The result, and one which Miller maps out with careful precision, is a maelstrom of emotion, each character suffering from his or her own demons.

Set on a front porch - one given a lopsided, angular, semi-Expressionist look from designer Gideon Davey - the action proceeds with new revelations appearing regularly.

Everyone is holding a secret which cannot be expressed until the right emotional moment.

Michael Byrne plays businessman and father Joe Keller with a swagger which subtly suggests he is hiding something. Sometimes there is a funny line:"I like to keep ahead of my ignorance" he says when accused of not reading the news, and sometimes he bursts into anger.

His happy, but eventually tortured, son Chris goes through a fine range of emotions played by Alexis Denisof (a cult favourite from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the visiting Ann is given a vivid portrayal from Alice Patten.

With a ten-strong cast it is impossible to mention everyone but Dearbhla Molloy is pitch-perfect as Joe’s troubled wife Kate and there is a charming cameo from Oscar Reddrop as an annoying neighbourhood kid.

Ultimately, it is a production which underlines the dramatic strength now emerging from the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, one which deserves our applause and attention.