“I’m the big Miller advocate,” said Susan Marie Rhea, associate artistic director of Keegan Theatre. She means Arthur Miller, the playwright for whom she harbors “a particular passion.” Her second shot at directing Miller’s work, Keegan’s production of “All My Sons,” opened last weekend.
“I’ve long, long loved the play,” she said. “It was really just a matter of time before Keegan did it.”
“I’m not sure I fully appreciated how challenging it is to do the piece,” Rhea said, “to keep the balance of the revelations of the play.”
Unlike “The Crucible,” which is “all caught up in the glamour, for lack of a better word, of the playability of a trial setting [and] this salacious affair, [‘All My Sons’] is a quieter piece, and in that way it’s more challenging. It all takes place in a back yard,” Rhea said.
The pacing, too, can be problematic, as this is a play in which “every page, there’s some profound conversation that happens,” Rhea said. “The Crucible” takes care of those beats for you; it’s not on autopilot, exactly, it just follows every minor fall with a major lift. “All My Sons” requires a more deliberate hand to slow down and speed up scenes accordingly. “[You have to know] when to let a moment breathe, when you have to let the audience catch up with you,” Rhea said. “It’s very challenging. .?.?. I did not realize how hard it was going to be to find those moments.”
And, she added, there’s only one way to find them: “A lot of experimentation. I think it’s important to let the actors help you make those decisions.” Her cast is led by Kevin Adams as Joe Keller, the plagued patriarch at the story’s center. “I just think it’s a role he was born to play,” she said.
”The eye-opening part” of solving these staging quandaries, said Rhea, is that “you have an instinct about it when you see it.” She hopes the audience feels the same way. “We’ve only had two performances so far and people seem to be really responding,” she said.