Review of All My Sons
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Carl Hamilton
For tickets / schedule :
Raven Performing Arts Theater, Healdsburg
RUN: April 8 – 24, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars
(April 8, 2016)
The award winning All My Sons premiered on Broadway in 1947, and has been adapted to the silver screen upon several occasions. Playwright Arthur Miller was facing a bleak future coming off the failed The Man Who Had All the Luck, and had yet to achieve his masterpiece Death of a Salesman. Inspired by the story of Wright company’s Lockland plant, which came under investigation by the Truman Committee for shipping faulty aircraft engines, the action centers around Joe Keller (Steve Thorpe) and how far he is willing to go in the name of family.
We do not feel the acute rage of a 1940s audience upon hearing of the deaths caused by Keller’s compromise, but making business decisions based on outside pressure, financial distress, and for the sake of family are relevant today, as is the terrible inhumanity caused by putting money first. It is easy to explain away and selfishly justify actions that will harm others when they are not right before us, but in the end, every person is a son or daughter. All My Sons is a heartbreaking story of families so focused on what is best for them individually, that they are blinded to the world until rudely confronted by it.
While most of the cast are exuberant but inexpert—difficult to hear and self conscious—there are standouts that gave life to the production. Steve Thorpe is Joe Keller in the flesh, a comfortable businessman who can be a tease, and is genuinely incapable of understanding why his decisions are wrong. Thorpe gives depth to an otherwise dislikeable character using his disarming charm. Portraying his son Chris is Jeremy Boucher, a regular guy who is realistically in love, not overdoing the infatuation. His abilities come into focus during the violent second act, when he is consumed with anger, but manages to keep it under control as Chris Keller would do. Angela Squire’s Ann Deever is bubbly and sweet-tempered, yet able to hold her own in a dispute.
Despite tenuous production values, Arthur Miller’s aptitude with the spoken word shines through, supported by a core of dedicated actors. While not a memorable All My Sons, the Raven Players tackle the difficult play with enthusiasm. Director Carl Hamilton’s talent for blocking is to be commended. There was an offset symmetry to the emotionally charged scenes that was augmented by triangle and trailing formations that brought out the best of Arthur Miller’s language.