PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: All My Sons — TomKat and The Dogs of War

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17 Oct 2008

Mary Yeager and John Lithgow, Katie Holmes, Dagmara and Patrick Wilson, Jordan Gelber, Damian Young, Danielle Ferland, Christian Carmago, Becky Ann Baker, Michael D'Addario and Simon McBurney
Mary Yeager and John Lithgow, Katie Holmes, Dagmara and Patrick Wilson, Jordan Gelber, Damian Young, Danielle Ferland, Christian Carmago, Becky Ann Baker, Michael D'Addario and Simon McBurney
Aubrey Reuben

With Broadway openings, you can always count on a few things: they'll start at some odd, early hour like 6:30 PM; there will be a smattering of celebrities in the audience; every actress on stage will be given flowers; and Harry Haun will be there.

Well, Playbill.com's intrepid opening night reporter had uncharacteristically strayed out of the 10036 ZIP code during the unveiling of director Simon McBurney's revival of Arthur Miller's 1947 classic All My Sons. And so yours truly stepped in, resembling the master interviewer in no way except that I had a tape recorder in my hand and thrust it in the direction of a lot of famous faces.

Though I am relatively unused to opening nights (critics and reporters typically attend late previews), I knew enough to guess that the size of the crowd and the number of photographers outside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre were unusually large. As popular and talented as John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson — three of the production's headliners — are, the throng was not for them, but for their co-star, the film and television actress, and tabloid regular, Katie Holmes, whose Broadway debut this is. Oh, and they also might have been a little interested in her husband, a Hollywood actor of some repute. If the late Miller had been there, he might have recognized it as something like the circus that followed him during his years as Marilyn Monroe's spouse.

Interviews at the after-party — held in Espace, a cavernous hall with flowing walls on 42nd Street between 11th and 12th Avenues — were confined to a tent outside the building. There was to be no luck with two of the evening's leading players. Wiest, famous for her disinclination to engage with members of the Fourth Estate, whisked herself inside before a single camera could go "click." (I did learn from a member of the backstage crew that Wiest is apparently an incorrigible practical joker and likes to mess about with the props.) And the always-affable, always-accessible Lithgow pointed to his throat in a pantomimed protest that any more questions might force him into "vocal rest" the next day. Sigh.

But all was not lost. Their comrades, Wilson and Holmes — in a red-carpet designer dress far too fancy for the comparatively off-the-rack world of Broadway — offered their thoughts on what everyone seemed to agree was suddenly a vividly contemporary play. "As soon as I read this, I knew," said Wilson, who plays Chris Keller, whose world and ideals come crashing down when he discovers that his industrialist dad, Joe Keller (Lithgow), knowingly sold faulty equipment to the armed services during WWII, resulting in the death of 21 pilots. "I knew it would be great, no matter how it was done. I don't know if that's where I am as a 35-year-old as opposed to a teenager looking for monologues, or where we are as a country, staring in the face of Capitalism. It hits everybody. You see it in the audience."

Those who think the naturalistic moralist playwright and the theatrically experimental director make for an odd couple should know that Miller wished for this production. "I had a meeting with Arthur Miller in 2001," said McBurney. "He came and saw one of my shows and I told him how moved I'd been by his work and that one day I'd like to do one of his shows. And he got incredibly thrilled by that. He said, 'I would love to do it, because my plays are always done so naturalistically.'"



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