ALL MY SONS: Drama by Arthur Miller, directed by Caroline Altman. Ross Valley Players (RVP)Barn Theatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Ross. For tickets, call 415-456-9555 or go to www.rossvalleyplayers.com.
ALL MY SONS at Ross Valley Players strikes at the heart.
Fortunately for the theatrical world fledgling playwright Arthur Miller believed in the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In his case he only had to try once and seven years later after his first play The Man who Had All the Luck (1940) bombed in New York, All My Sons was a smash hit winning Tony Awards for Best Author and for Best Direction of a Play. Within the next eight years he scored with four straight winners; Death of a Salesman (1949), An Enemy of the People (1950, based on Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955).
The ambitious Ross Valley Players (RVP) wisely selected Wood Lockhart as producer and he has rounded up a talented cast for the penultimate production of their 83rd season that began hesitantly but ended with a dynamic second act doing justice to Miller’s opus. Once again Ken Rowland has designed a beautiful set and before the show began was awarded a Life-Time Achievement Award from the Ross Valley Players.
The plays construction follows the Aristotelian dictum of a being “conflict-driven” and dedicated to the action limited in time and place. It is August 1946, two years after the War and all the action happens within about 36 hours in one location, the Keller family back yard in the outskirts of American town, unnamed thus giving a sense of universality that is a trade mark of Miller’s works. Symbolism is another of Miller’s conceits and fallen tree adorns the stage representing the falling of his oldest pilot son Larry now for the past three years listed as missing in action. Mother Kate Keller (Kristine Ann Lowry) tenaciously insists that he still is alive.
Although universal in its themes the story is based on an actual incident. A WW II manufacturer who was profiteering from the war was turned in to the authorities by his daughter when he shipped defective parts to the military. In Miller’s play, Joe Keller’s (Craig Christiansen) plant shipped known defective airplane cylinder heads to the military resulting in the death of 21 airmen. A subsequent trial and deceit by Joe resulted in his exoneration by blaming his partner Steve Deever (unseen but critical to the storyline) who has been imprisoned for three years.
Steve Deever’s daughter Ann (Amber Collins Crane) who was Larry’s girlfriend has been away for three years has disowned her father and now has returned at the behest of younger son Chris (Francis Serpa) and they plan to be married. Kate’s insistence that Larry is still alive is buttressed by a neighbor and amateur astrologist Frank Lubey (Daniel Hollander) leading to a battle of wills between Kate and Ann.
Miller has taken a page from Herman Melville by endowing Chris with purity that influences those around him to be better than what they are. In the war Chris’s platoon was all killed when they devotedly followed him into battle. In his own backyard Chris’s demeanor stimulates his neighbor Dr. Jim Bayliss (Javier Alarcon) who is desirous of becoming a medical researcher but his wife Sue (Siobhan) who recognizes that the American dream needs money to reach fruition thwarts Jim’s ambition. The need for money to live the good life is imbedded in Joe Keller’s psyche as he repeats the mantra that he has done what he has done for his sons.
When Ann’s brother George (Phillip Goleman) arrives conflict is compounded and in the second act all the major characters turn in great performances bringing the play to a powerful conclusion. Craig Christiansen dominates the stage in all the early scenes and gives a great performance when Joe falls from grace. Kristine Ann Lowery plays the unsympathetic role of Kate with understatement and conveys true hostility when challenged. Francis Serpa and Amber Collins Crane do not quite convey deep emotional tie written into the script.
Phillip Goleman’s entrance in the second act is a joy to watch and in his brief time upon the stage gives the most professional performance of the evening. Siobhan O’Brien as the doctor’s wife seems unsure in her early scene but superb when she challenges Ann to leave. Miller would be proud of her defense of living the American Dream.
Running time about two hours with intermission. Highly recommended.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com