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Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future

Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future

American playwright Arthur Miller was born and raised in New York City, where his father owned a successful manufacturing business. The Great Depression, however, brought financial ruin onto his father, demonstrating to the young Miller the insecurity of modern existence. That doubt plays an important role in his well-known plays, often leading to the downfall of his main character who cannot accept their own responsibility for the pitfalls encountered which turn their lives around.

Such is the case in Miller's electrifying family drama, ALL MY SONS which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play and Miller his first Pulitzer Prize when it first opened in 1947 and went on to be a recipient of numerous Tony Awards. Inspired by a story from an Ohio Newspaper on an aircraft factory's troubled contracts during WWII, the tale remains as timely as it is timeless about pointing your finger at someone else rather than soil your own reputation by taking responsibility for your own actions, a personality trait all too evident in today's society.

Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future The entire play takes place over one day in the yard of the Midwestern home of the Keller family, a place which has always been the neighborhood hub. Neighbors come and go seeking answers, expecting that Kate and Joe will provide sage advice or a much-needed shoulder to cry on when needed. But underneath their perky exteriors, the Kellers have only one sadness in their lives in the aftermath of World War II: the loss of their other son, Larry, who went missing and has not been found after three years. Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future And while Kate still clings to the hope that her son is alive, Joe and Chris have accepted Larry will not be returning, yet must walk a fine line to keep Kate's sanity in place when the subject is discussed. To complicate the situation, Chris would like his mother Kate to give up the hope Larry will be returning because he wants to marry Ann, a former neighbor and Larry's wartime fiancée.

But on this date, Kate, her husband Joe, and their son Chris Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future find their world turned upside down when the expected and unexpected return of Ann and her brother George stir up the secrets of the past and expose who is family and how we justify the sacrifices made to ensure our own survival. You see, Ann and George's father Steve is now in prison for a crime he committed while working in Joe's factory when the two men were faced with a batch of defective machine parts. But to save face and their family income, as well as stick to the terms of their government contract, Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future the parts were patched and sent them out, causing the death of 21 pilots during the war. Steve went to prison, while Joe returned home after being freed during an appeal, and made his business bigger and better. But who was really at fault for allowing the defective parts to be shipped? And since Larry was a pilot, if he really is dead, was it his father's fault?

This intense character drama requires an extraordinary cast who can open their hearts to each of the characters' lighthearted nature as well as the despair in the depths of their souls. Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future The production currently at Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, directed by Elina De Santos with a sure hand and brilliant understanding of the frailties of human nature, features Richard Fancy as Joe Keller, Terry Davis as Kath Keller, Marc Valera as Chris Keller, Amy-Helene Carlson as Ann Deever and Scott Jackson as George Deever, all of whom completely inhabit their emotionally challenging roles and draw you into this tight tale.

Portraying the two neighboring couples (at the performance I attended) were Bryan Chesters and Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future Katy Downing as Frank and Lydia Lubey, with Scott Sheldon as Dr. Jim Bayliss with Dalia Vosylius as his wife Sue. These roles are usually played by Jason Huber, Tania Getty, Rick Garrison and Jennifer Pollono with Enzo de Angelis as Bert, the neighborhood kid, who was absent at the show I attended. Technical credits are top notch thanks to Dillon G. Artzer (Scenic Design), Christopher Moscatiello (Sound Design), Matt Richter (Lighting Design), and Jennifer Pollono's period perfect Costume Design.

Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future Director De Santos shares, "Miller writes about responsibility, love and hope in a fiercely unequal America after what seemed like a unifying war. The play takes us to uncomfortable realizations about our history and our future." Perhaps that is why ALL MY SONS remains an iconic part of American theater, hoping that Miller's examination of lying to save one's own skin at the expense of others may one day not rule our society. We can only hope so. Review: Arthur Miller's ALL MY SONS Examines Accepting Responsibility, Loss, Love and Hope for a Better Future ALL MY SONS runs Fridays, Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm January 10 - 26, 2020. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd., in Venice, CA 90291, with performances taking place in the smaller 40-seat 705 ½ space. Tickets are $29 and can be purchased online at http://www.pacificresidenttheatre.com or by calling (310) 822-8392. Free onsite parking.

Photos by Michelle Hanzelova and Jeff Lorch




From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary schools,... (read more about this author)


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