Though the fireworks in the forthcoming Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s magnificent All My Sons will come courtesy of John Lithgow and Patrick Wilson as, respectively, the pathetic Joe Keller and his disillusioned son Chris, you can bet that the media coverage will exclusively, exhaustively focus on the “legit” debut of Katie Holmes as the indignant, sharp-minded Ann Deever. By giving the untested (and, to be brutally honest, usually terrible) Mrs. Tom Cruise a showy role previously inhabited by the spitfire likes of Joan Allen and Jayne Atkinson, the producers might as well re-title the play All My Dead Business Partner’s Daughter.
As a firm believer in the theory that most bad actors are one great director away from an, at least, acceptable performance, I’ll give Holmes a shot to astonish us with her heretofore unseen emotional acuity. With the powerhouse duo of Lithgow and Dianne Wiest going at her, fading into the scenery won’t be an option (well, unless Simon McBurney collaborates with the Quay Brothers as he did with the memorable 1998 revival of Ionesco’s The Chairs). It’s drown-or-dazzle time, my fellow Northwest Ohioan.
All My Sons has a reputation as the flawed precursor to Miller’s Death of a Salesman, but I’ve always been quite fond of it; it’s an impassioned cry of anti-corporate outrage that should play very well in today’s venal climate (as opposed to the equally venal climate of the late 1940s). I just hope this stunt casting doesn’t sink an otherwise promising production.