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Play about WWII aftermath comes to Riverside

BY JESSICA CARBINO | JANUARY 27, 2011 7:10 AM

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Actor Cristina Panfilio does research for every play she is involved in. Before taking on her role in All My Sons, she investigated the time period — the late-1940s.

“I like to be really aware of the world in which the play exists and how that might be different from and similar to the world that you and I live in,” she said.

All My Sons, an intense play that marks Riverside Theatre’s 30th anniversary, involves characters dealing with moral issues. The play will open at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St. The Production will continue through Feb. 20 with Thursday through Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances at 2 p.m. Admission ranges from $12 to $26.

All My Sons is a drama that tells the story of characters in an imperfect and surprisingly fragile America two years after World War II ends. Ideals must coexist with the lack of human appetite and destructive chemistry of human selfishness. One of the main characters, father Joe Keller, struggles from the war’s aftershocks while trying to achieve the American Dream for his family. The elder son, Chris Keller, announces his plan to marry his missing-in-action brother’s fiancée, and the mother must confront her denying the truth: Her missing son will not walk back through the door.

But the complicated plot doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“We have a highly skilled cast,” said director Mark Hunter.

Panfilio, who plays fiancée Anne Deever, believes All My Sons is about responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, and to something much greater.

“It’s also a play about truth, about what we know, and what it is to be good,” she said.

Anne is gentle and capable of holding to what she knows. She has a tough exterior and a sensitive, warm, and generous interior.

Having been acting professionally for six years, Panfilio was drawn to this production because she views author Arthur Miller as an important part of American theater and this play, in particular, as an important piece of history.

“To work on a piece of literature like this is an absolute dream,” she said.

Ron Clark, a cofounder of Riverside Theatre, plays Joe Keller, a deeply flawed man who thinks of himself as a working-class hero. He has taken care of himself since he was 10 years old and keeps himself going by taking care of his family. His protective instincts and love is used to justify everything he does.

Because Clark thinks he has the same emotions and life expectations as Joe, he seems to be the right actor to play the character. He has dreamed of playing the character since he first saw the play around 15 years ago. He understands and empathizes with everything his character believes and uses his role to explore himself.

“I don’t lose myself in the character, I find myself in the character,” said Clark, who has been acting and directing professionally for 36 years.

When dealing with a modern classic like this one, the challenge of giving the piece justice is a constant concern for the director and cast. Hunter feels a sense of obligation to make All My Sons as wonderful as it has been in past performances.

“It’s both remarkable and satisfying that [a play like this] still speaks to us and carries such dramatic power,” he said.


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