Nobody applauds when Annette Bening first appears on stage in All My Sons, the third Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 tragedy, the playwright’s first hit play. This is because of director Jack O’Brien’s staging, a deliberate choice to have her character Kate Keller start speaking while she is still partially hidden inside the Keller’s old-fashioned suburban house. The house itself is largely just a three-dimensional backdrop; the action takes place in the Keller’s backyard.
Bening is also so plainly dressed and free of any obvious makeup that it took time to recognize her.
Kate’s low-key entrance feels like a strategy for the play as a whole. It drives home how much the Keller family – father Joe (Tracy Letts), mother Kate (Bening) and son Chris (Benjamin Walker) — are just plain American folk, like their friends and neighbors. Yet, it also suggests how much they have hidden…from the audience, from each other, from themselves. When by the end all is revealed, the play explodes into three powerhouse performances.