The deceptive nature of a neighborhood, flush with economic success, is at the heart of the family tragedy “All My Sons.”
In his first successful major work, playwright Arthur Miller probes how a family can be fractured because of the sins of the father.
The Kellers live comfortably, a model of the American Dream. But fissures come out. First, a tree has fallen in the backyard after a storm. But it’s not just any tree. It’s for son Larry, a pilot who has been reported missing in action. Mom Kate (Margaret Daly) keeps up a fantasy that Larry will be coming back.
That complicates things, because stand-up son Chris (Patrick Ball, a marvel of duty, honor, loyalty) wants to ask Larry’s sweetheart, Ann Deever (fetching and feisty Mairin Lee), the girl that used to live next door, to marry him. She is coming for a visit.
Her brother, George (Zac Hoogendyk), stops by, too, but friction is evident. The Deevers lived side by side the Kellers, and both fathers were business partners in a factory that provided material for government contracts. They shipped inferior parts for planes, and military men died because of this mistake. Deever went to prison for it, but Joe Keller was reprieved.
Stirring up this dark cloud deepens the drama, and Miller has constructed this superbly. Did Joe Keller know they were defective? If so, why did he allow it? And why did he let his neighbor to be the fall guy?
As the moral complexities and facts emerge, we see the collateral damage, how lives are shattered.
The confrontations are fraught with resentment, rage and unsatisfactory answers to questions. This is where the claws come out, from a straight-shooting neighbor lady warnings, a seething son who once believed the lies, and an unforgiving son rattled by guilt through association.
The Repertory Theatre’s production of this post-World War II is meticulously mounted and well-cast. Scenic designer Michael Ganio has created a backyard haven that allows director Seth Gordon to move the players around in tranquil and contentious ways.
Because of Gordon’s sure hand, the actors carefully crafted their characters. While everyone emotes with precision, Patrick Ball becomes the audience’s conscience with his gut-wrenching and heartbreaking work. As the surviving son Chris, whose life needs a fresh jump-start, he brings out every internal and external struggle.
John Woodson is a blustery autocrat, living a lie while trying to keep his notions of success and family together. Unfortunately, Margaret Daly is hamstrung as Kate, having to confine to Miller’s typical supportive wife role, indicative of the times.
Standouts among the ensemble include Zac Hoogendyk as the deflated brother, whose world has crashed; Jim Ireland as the cynical doctor who hangs out in the backyard, who knows more than he lets on; and Grant Fletcher Pruitt and Emily Kunkel as a cheerful couple who live in the neighborhood.
Seventy years later, this play about personal action and public responsibility still resonates, perhaps even more so now.