Review: ‘All the Way Home’

The play may be the thing; but when that thing is a period piece like "All the Way Home," it's the direction that gives it the kiss of life. In his imaginative helming of Tad Mosel's 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning dram, Jack Cummings III views this bleak tragedy with the reflective eye of a visual artist.

The play may be the thing; but when that thing is a period piece like “All the Way Home,” it’s the direction that gives it the kiss of life. In his imaginative helming of Tad Mosel’s 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama (based on James Agee’s Pulitzer novel, “A Death in the Family”), Jack Cummings III views this bleak tragedy with the reflective eye of a visual artist. Stripping the action to the bone, he gives color and shape to the play’s moods and distills its substance into stark tableaux of joy and grief that could hang on a museum wall. While daring, this abstract approach to a piece of vintage realism is surprisingly illuminating – and beautiful in the extreme.

In the painterly scheme of this stunning production, the stage is kept dark and bare (in Sandra Goldmark’s austere design), except for two wooden chairs and eight miniature frame houses, unpainted and lighted from within, to suggest the several Tennessee households in which the play unfolds over a few days in the spring of 1915. With no furniture or props to fuss with, characters are defined by their rigid hair styles (by master wigmaker Paul Huntley) and the stiff lines of their costumes (in muted earth tones chosen by Shana Albery and Kathryn Rohe).

The players in this heartbreaking family tragedy move slowly and ritualistically about the bare stage, frozen in their emotions by the sharply defined outlines of R. Lee Kennedy’s rich lighting design. From somewhere offstage, the lonesome wail of a harmonica (played by Corrin Huddleston) cuts right through their private thoughts.

Given the stark quality of the production design, it’s astonishing to find such emotionally layered performances from the Transport Group’s 15-member ensemble.

Eight-year-old Chandler Frantz holds the heart of the play in his tiny hands as Rufus Follet, the six-year-old boy (a stand-in for author Agee) who tries to make sense of the confusing grown-up world around him. Despite all the secrecy and dissembling of his elders, this child doesn’t miss a thing that goes on in the Follet household — although he doesn’t quite know what to make of such family mysteries as his mother’s pregnancy, his father’s moody discontent, his uncle’s alcoholism, his aunt’s concern and his ancient great-great-great grandmother’s sorrow.

The scene in which this aged creature (in a magnificent cameo perf from Irma St. Paule) briefly holds the boy and then silently weeps when he is taken away from her is hardly the defining moment of Mosel’s drama. But in the stunning staging of their encounter, it is the most moving one.

The rest of the cast is no less subtle as they struggle to cope with the appalling tragedy of the death of Rufus’s father, Jay, a man of enormous personal appeal and psychological complexity in Patrick Boll’s superb performance. Monica Russell makes sterling work of his wife, Mary, whose Catholic faith is profoundly shaken by Jay’s death — as are the bedrock beliefs of everyone on both sides of the family.

Without preaching, Mosel presents a heart-wrenching portrait of people in deep crisis, and in its exquisite production (the first New York revival of the play since its 1961 Broadway run), the Transport Group honors every one of them.

All the Way Home

Connelly Theater; 99 seats; $20 top

Production

A Transport Group presentation of a play in three acts by Tad Mosel. Directed by Jack Cummings III.

Creative

Set, Sandra Goldmark; costumes, Shana Albery and Kathryn Rohe; lighting, R. Lee Kennedy; wigs and hair, Paul Huntley; original music, Ellen Weiss; production stage manager, Rebecca Yarsin. Opened Nov. 5, 2006. Reviewed Nov. 2. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast

Rufus Follet - Chandler Frantz Jay Follet - Patrick Boll Mary Follet - Monica Russell Ralph Follet - Joseph Kolinski Sally Follet - Joanna Parson John Henry Follet - John Braden Jessie Follet - Letty Serra Jim-Wilson Follet - Patrick Gilbert Aunt Sadie Follet - Corinne Edgerly Great-Great-Grandmaw - Irma St. Paule Catherine Lynch - Alice Cannon Aunt Hannah Lynch - Barbara Andres Joel Lynch - Tom Ligon Andrew Lynch - Michael Lewis Father Jackson - Ben Masur
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Legit News from Variety

Loading