For the first time in 20 years, the Westminster Players will be performing Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. The play opened on Feb. 2 and will close on Feb. 4. The last performance of All My Sons on Kellett’s stage starred Westminster alumni and former Stagecats Ed Helms and Brian Baumgartner, both of The Office fame. Now this year’s thespians eagerly take on the play, which is a tale of greed, betrayal, and loss. The father of two sons, Joe Keller, supplies soldiers with faulty plane engines, which results in 21 deaths. Meanwhile, Joe’s oldest son, Larry, goes missing, and Larry’s fiancée becomes betrothed to his younger brother, Chris. Joe’s wife, Kate, refuses to acknowledge the possibility of Larry’s death and disapproves of the engagement. The family struggles with the hurt of Joe’s crime while simultaneously coping with the loss of Larry.
Director Eric Brannen selected All My Sons with a specific message in mind.
“[The play] is about the desire for money, lack of responsibility for your fellow man, and [forgetting] the people we hurt,” said Brannen. “We keep building it over and over again. Sometime, we’ve got to stop being so greedy and worry about helping each other a little bit more.”
Several students acting in the play find that the text resonates with teenagers.
“It [illustrates] the depression that can come after apocalyptic events within families and shows correct and incorrect ways of dealing with it,” said junior Sarah Scott, who plays the understudy to the character Sue Bayliss. “ I really think that the play will help high school students who are going through tough times.”
Brannen sees the potential of All My Sons to appeal to a high school audience.
“Some of [Miller’s] plays are so heavy and so serious that it’s hard for high schools to do them,” said Brannen. “But this play is one I think is approachable for high school kids to do and to appreciate.”
The cast is composed of only ten characters, but every role has an understudy, which is not often seen in Westminster productions. Scott describes Bayliss, her character, as the “abrasive and condescending” friend of the Keller family. Sharing the role with fellow junior Kelsey Crane, Scott finds small differences in their acting choices.
“No actor is going to have the exact same interpretation as another actor,” said Scott. “Of course they’re very similar because you can only do so much before you totally lose the character.”
While having a small cast is unusual for a Westminster production, it certainly has its advantages.
“I really like the newfound space in the green room,” said Scott. “We never have room in [there] and this is fantastic.”
Another benefit of a smaller group is that actors can develop closer relationships with each other.
“We bond more as a cast when it’s smaller,” said Crawford. “I guess our characters get to know each other a lot more through having fewer people to interact with.”
Junior Matthew Greene agrees. “The way you can work on the scenes more closely and in depth with one another brings a whole new level to emotion and relating to one another in the scenes,” said Greene.
A limited cast has also allowed the actors to focus more due to the lack of miscellaneous noise.
“Having a small cast is good because there aren’t as many distractions,” said senior Mitchell Tracy. “You really get into the play a lot more than if you’re in this huge hectic musical where you don’t even know what’s going on in half the scenes.”
While the small cast has grown to become a close-knit group, there are also several disadvantages to being in such a small group.
“It’s a lot harder during practices when you have less people to hang out with,” said Crawford.
“What I dislike about [the small cast] is that I have tons of friends in theater and they’re not all here like they would be in a huge musical,” said Scott.
Another downfall to having few characters is that a lot more focus is placed on the main roles, and not as many other characters get to reveal themselves to the audience.
“The way the play is written is that most of the actual acting and experience goes on within the three main characters, and there’s not much else for everyone else,” said Tracy, “It’s just how the play is.”
Brannen encourages students, parents, and teachers to come see the play, praising Miller’s dialogue and the hard work the actors have shown so far.
“It’s not a comedy,” said Brannen. “We just did Producers which is all frivolous fun. This is heavy duty and serious, but it’s such brilliant writing and brilliant acting that it really pushes our actors to grow to a whole new level.”
For the senior ActCats, All My Sons will be their last high school performance.
“I think it’s a very relevant play,” said Tracy. “It’s good to end on this strong note.”