ALL MY SONS
Every great play speaks to its time, then transcends it.
Arthur Miller's All My Sons was written just after WWII as many soldier/sons were returning from the war - and many weren't. The play is about the Keller family. The father, Joe Keller (Tracy Letts), owned an airplane parts manufacturing plant during the War. His youngest son, Chris (Benjamin Walker), fought in it and his older son, Larry, a pilot, died in it. Their mother, Kate Keller (Annette Bening), refuses to acknowledge Larry's death since his body was never found.
During the War, Joe and his partner, Frank Deever, were arrested for providing the Army Air Corps with defective parts that caused the death of twenty-one pilots. Deever was convicted but Keller was exonerated because, he claims, he was sick and not at the plant the day the defective parts were shipped out.
Ann Deever (Francesca Carpanini) was engaged to marry Larry but after Larry's death and her father's conviction, she left the town. Now, three years later, she returns. Chris is in love with her and wants to marry her. His mother, Kate, can never accept this marriage because she would have to admit that her son, Larry, is dead. Ann's return brings to the surface all the the townspeople's feelings about Joe and his involvement in the scandal that killed so many pilots.
All My Sons is plotted with the deftness and complexity of an airplane engine. The happy story of the Keller family starts out smoothly but, by the second act, begins to spin out of control and, comes crashing down when Ann's brother, George Deever (Hampton Fluker) comes to town after visiting his father in jail.
The creative team does an amazing job of placing the audience into the world of the play. Director, Jack O'Brien, keeps the play moving, often using humor to contrast with the deadly seriousness at the play's core. The scenes flow by growing with tension like a bolero.
It is the cast that sets this production apart from previous versions. Letts is perfect as the patriarch/magician who gets the whole town to accept him back from the brink of Hades, accused of the worse crime imaginable, war profiteering causing the death of soldiers. Walker, as the surviving son who believes in all that the War was fought for - a better world - gives a riveting performance as he tries to win the heart of Ann while appeasing his mother's intractable belief in Larry's survival. Carpanini and Fluker pull off the difficult task of playing characters who, at heart, are only marionettes in the play's deadly waltz to the truth.
But the play's heart and soul is Kate Keller and Bening gives one of the great performances of the season in making her come alive. Loving, tender, a nurturer, Kate desperately tries to keep the Keller family from exploding. She refuses to accept her son, Larry's, death, not, as it first seems, out of an insane belief in his survival, but, rather, because Larry must be alive if the Keller family is to survive. As her world slowly begins to unravel, so does she.
In the end, All My Sons is a play about us - how our beliefs always trump the truth no matter what the facts. When the truth can no longer be ignored, it explodes not only our beliefs, but our world.
American Airlines Theater
227 W. 42nd St, NYC, NY
Play Runtime 2 hrs. and 15 min.
Credits Written by Arthur Miller; Directed by Jack O'Brien
Cast Tracy Letts, Annette Bening, Benjamin Walker, Francesca Carpanini, Hampton Fluker, Michael Hayden, Jenni Barber, Nehal Joshi and Chinasa Ogbuagu