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FREEHOLD, NJ—Just because most of the local theaters have finished their 2013-14 season, doesn’t mean there still isn’t quality theatre close to Hub City.
About a half an hour down Route 18 in Freehold is Center Players. A jewel box theater with a large following also happens to be one of the best-run non-equity theaters in New Jersey, from a business standpoint.
Directed by and starring Anthony Greco as Chris Keller, Arthur Miller’s tragedy All My Sons played to a full house.
The play is inspired by the Wright Aeronautical Corporation (now Curtiss/Wright) scandal where corporate executives conspired with army officials to approve defective aircraft engines for military use during the World War II.
It opens in the Keller’s backyard during the summer of1946, after the overturned conviction of the disgraced Joe Keller, well-played once again by Bill Lee.
As past performances of this role indicate, Lee has this character down pat. He conveys to his audience the underlying corrupt ethos of Keller, a typical looter and moocher.
Through the character’s own lies, denial and rationalities, Keller not only vindicates himself, but also charcterizes himself as an innocent victim of terrible circumstances.
The always-talented Sharon Saks, also reprised her role as the delusional, pitiful, but fraudulent Kate, whose fantasies about a ‘Missing in Action’ son and his pending return is the catalyst that will lead the Keller family to it tragic reckoning.
Saks is a well-established local actress whose performances are always top shelf. She can proudly add this rendition to her already impressive repertoire.
Anthony Greco, who got his start in non-equity theatre as a kid with non-speaking parts at the Eatontown Playhouse, has matured into a fine director.
He also gave a powerful performance as the stoic but naive Chris Keller, a man afraid to face the one truth that could either destroy him or set him free.
Jessica O’Brien is Ann Deever, a confused woman linked to Kellers by the same scandal. She harbors a secret that makes her incapable of breaking her connection or escape the terrible truth about them.
O’Brien gave a solid performance that at times was heart wrenching.
Rounding out the pivotal characters is Jeff Caplan as the outraged George, Ann’s brother. George is burdened with the terrible moral judgment of the truth, a truth he knows could destroy not only the Kellers, but his sister as well.
Having to play a character who must maintain a moral semblance, while raging internally is not easy, but Caplan did it with skill.
The rest of the cast gave first-rate performances and their contribution to this well done stagework was noticed.
One critique: There were slight noises in the lobby during the first act. Though not too distracting, it did cause a few quick head turns.
All My Sons has closed and the main season at Center Playhouse is set to resume again in October.