Los Angeles Theater Review: ALL MY SONS (Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice)

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by Joan Alperin on October 22, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles

THE SINS OF THE FATHER

There’s no doubt that Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons is an astonishing piece of theater. Not only is the writing brilliant, but the themes addressed are timeless and important. It’s difficult to imagine how the play could possibly be improved. It is based on a true story which appeared in an Ohio newspaper. The news story described how in 1941-43 the Wright Aeronautical Corporation based in Ohio had conspired with army inspection officers to approve defective aircraft engines destined for military use. It is amazing that Miller managed to pack so much drama into a play that takes place in the space of one day. Even if you’ve seen this classic play before, you would do well to go back; it still packs a punch, as proved by Pacific Resident Theatre’s moving and powerful production.

The entire play takes place in the Midwest backyard of the Kellers, a seemingly typical all-American family living the American Dream, but that is just a façade that they will do anything to hold on to. Joe Keller (played with depth and complexity by Richard Fancy) is a self-made businessman whose partner went to prison for selling cracked cylinders which led to the deaths of twenty-one pilots during World War II.

Joe’s son Larry has been reported missing in action for three years, but his wife Kate (Terry Davis) refuses to believe that her older son is dead. Their younger son Chris (Marc Valera) is in love with Larry’s girlfriend Ann (Amy-Helene Carlson) who just happens to be the daughter of Joe’s imprisoned ex-partner. Chris and Ann want to marry but he fears telling his mother, as Kate wants Ann to wait for Larry to return no matter how long it takes.

Instead of veering into soap opera, the tale becomes more gripping when neighbors pop in and out, intermingling opinions and judgments like members of a Greek Chorus who eventually lead us to the unveiling of a dark secret that the family is forced to face.

Under Elina de Santos’s skillful direction, Miller’s skills as a playwright shine: his craftsmanship remains a miracle, and he never throws in exposition arbitrarily. He creates everyday philosophers and allows the actors to bring on the subtext, which the entire cast does. The neighbors are played by Jason Huber, Tania Getty, Rick Garrison, Jennifer Pollen and Enzo de Angelis; Ann’s brother George is played by the wonderful Scott Jackson, who offers the conflicted, revengeful spirit that hurls the tension of the plot into high gear.

The time may be WWII, but the themes are shockingly contemporary: profiteering, lack of integrity, deceit, and judgment. (Miller even takes on the Military Industrial Complex long before Eisenhower even warned of its existence.) American consumption as we know it was well under way, and the Keller family in All My Sons will learn the price they must pay for the “money-money-money-money” earned for things they probably never needed. Miller warns us that addiction to familial comfort leads to emotional and spiritual discomfort; this, in turn, threatens to eviscerate the comfortable American family. Are we yet listening?

photos by Michelle Hanzelova and Jeff Lorch

All My Sons
Pacific Resident Theatre
703 Venice Boulevard in Venice
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 3
ends on November 15, 2019
for tickets, call 310.822.8392 or visit PRT

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