All My Sons
Rewarded with Miller's staccato, gripping script, director Julianne Boyd and a uniformly high caliber cast enact the story which begins in August of 1946 in the back yard of a house somewhere in post World War II America. Designer David M. Barber furnishes a multi-story home exterior which is simultaneously looming and appealing.
Joe Keller (Jeff McCarthy) manufactured airplane parts during the recent war. His son, Larry, has been missing for three years. Joe's wife, Kate (Lizbeth Mackay) has hopes that Larry will return but Larry's brother, Chris (Josh Clayton) does not. Meanwhile, Joe's partner, Steve Deever, remains in prison for selling and shipping defective cylinder heads to the Air Force; the action caused around twenty deaths. Steve Deever's lovely daughter Ann (Rebecca Brooksher) is now involved with Chris but was formerly engaged to now-deceased Larry.
Kate realizes that her husband is guilty while Chris clings to a belief that his father might still be innocent. Thus, we have a story and accompanying themes, all of which feel quite contemporary, which address morals, truths, cover-ups, and implications for fractured families. The Barrington Stage production is piercing and emotive. McCarthy, for example, appears to be confident (as Joe) at the outset and as the plot unfolds becomes a tragic figure. As Joe's wife Kate, who is initially in denial, Mackay provides a detailed and unhurried performance Ann's character is pivotal since it is she who brings forth a letter from Larry; the play turns at this moment.
Miller has written a script of and about a time in this country. Sometimes melodramatic (and this is actually positive in this case), All My Sons speaks of the consequences of fraud, its damaging effects and the personal toll it exacts upon many lives.
This plot stems from an actual event. Miller, in a 1969 interview, said, "The play was based on a real incident. There wasn't a son involved but the daughter of a manufacturer in the United States who turned him in during the war. I never knew the people involved, and it turned out that it wasn't a daughter, but a son in my play. All I knew was just what I told you, that this had happened in the Middle West."
Fifteen minutes or less into the performance, the suspense begins to build. It is more than tempting, early on, to hypothesize about Joe, especially Joe. He seems easygoing and self-assured but how can this be so? The supporting characters such as Dr. Jim Bayliss (Peter Reardon), Sue Bayliss (Emily Kunkel). who is his wife, and the very tightly strung George Deever (Matthew Carlson), Ann's older brother, are absolutely vital. In fact those unseen (Larry Keller and Steve Deever) are indispensable, too.
Miller examines integrity and that is at the heart of All My Sons. He is a dramatist with a social conscience and his works penetrate and probe beneath the surfaces of life in America. Born in 1915, Miller lived through the Depression and he zeroes in upon desperate humans, oftentimes working class individuals, and writes of their personal and/or ethical dilemmas. His people continue to struggle. Boyd, directing, understands Miller, and the current cast is spot-on with character depictions throughout the performance. One believes these actors who so persuasively speak Miller's words.
All My Sons continues on the Barrington Stage Company Boyd-Quinson stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts through August 4th. For tickets, call (413) 236-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org.
- Fred Sokol