ALL MY SONS is a classic Arthur Miller psychological drama about a family torn apart by the unraveling of its own dark secrets. First produced in 1947 and based on a true story, the play (which became Miller's first Broadway success) is a timely reminder of the devastating impact that misguided personal decisions can have on the world at large.
The production currently running at the Adobe Theater, under the able direction of James Cady, is a well-crafted interpretation of this challenging piece, which runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15 minute interval. There is only one setting throughout the 3 act play - the backyard of a comfortable family home somewhere in mainstream America - and the story unfolds as the characters evolve, emerging from the smoke and mirrors of their happy family façade, to reveal their true identities, as they are forced to deal with the devastating realities with which they are confronted.
The complex and multi-layered story revolves around the central character of Joe Keller (skillfully portrayed by Phil Shortell.) A successful businessman, clearly devoted to protecting and preserving his bottom line, he knowingly supplied the military with defective airplane parts during World War II, resulting in the deaths of over 20 fighter pilots. Since Joe is also a devoted family man, anxious to pass on a thriving business to his son, Chris (played by Matthew Van Wettering) he denies all knowledge of this criminal behavior, allowing his partner to take the blame, face the consequences and finally end up in jail.
Chris, together with Joe's wife, Kate (Lorri Oliver) have always firmly believed in his innocence, an essential element in their emotional wellbeing, since a second son, Larry, himself a pilot, was declared MIA during the war, his fate still unknown.
Enter Ann Deever (Jessica Barkl) the daughter of Joe's jailed partner, who also happens to be Larry's one-time fiancée. The plot begins to thicken, as the tension slowly builds, At the same time, this is also the point where the storyline stretches credibility to its limit, especially in view of the fact that Ann and Chris have now, apparently, become romantically linked and are planning to marry.
The story is held together and, ultimately, defined, by the illusions that the family members cling to. Kate refuses to believe that her second son is dead; Joe is firmly convinced that money brings happiness; Chris has complete faith in his father's innocence. The shattering of these illusions culminates in a traumatic climax, as Joe, unable to deal with the consequences of what he now recognizes as his shocking and unforgivable behavior, finally kills himself.
Given the complexity and unlikely twists and turns of this densely interconnected plot, bringing these characters to life in a way that is both convincing and sympathetic, is especially challenging and the cast is to be commended for doing an excellent job. Particularly noteworthy are Phil Shortell as Joe and Matthew Van Wettering as his son, Chris, whose relationship changes dramatically during the course of the play. The actors seem to settle more comfortably into their characters as the action progresses, especially Kate, Joe's wife, who seems to come more alive as she comes undone.
Keeping an audience engaged for over 2 hours' is a notable achievementespecially without the aid of a 'fourth wall.' Although it was written over 65 years ago, ALL MY SONS is still a thought-provoking play, with particular relevance to today's world. It continues at the Adobe Theater through March 17th.
photo courtesy of Ossy Werner