Reviews ...

Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons' performed in Boston in January 2010

... a theater review

by Elizabeth Samit

Arthur Miller's drama, "All My Sons" was recently performed at Boston University's Huntington Theater, and I was fortunate to see it on January 23, 2010. Along with a gripping script, the acting of all ten characters was superb, but especially that of Karen McDonald in the role of Kate.

In this tragic play, the impact of an economically-motivated decision results in the deaths of American pilots in World War II due to faulty components installed in their fighter planes. The relationships between the four main characters are deeply affected by that decision. In a short piece entitled, "Victories at Cost: War and Enterprise in World War II" by Charles Haugland included in the program, the author states, "Arthur Miller understood that there's nothing more insidious or ultimately more destructive than when patriotism and profit become aligned and go along a common path".

Written in 1947, the central theme is disconcertingly timely to events of the past decade. The plot revolves around what appears to be an ordinary, suburban family coping with the reality that the older son, Larry, is missing in the war. Meanwhile, the surviving son, Chris, lives with his parents and is in love with Ann, his brother's girlfriend. The father (Joe) accepts that Larry is most likely dead, while the mother (Kate) clings to her belief that Larry is alive-and therefore can't accept that Chris and Ann plan to marry.
Kate Keller, Joe Keller (played by Will Lyman), Chris Keller (played by Lee Aaron Rosen), and Ann Deever (played by Diane Davis) are the main characters.

As the plot unfolds, we gradually learn that Ann's father worked for Joe, who sold faulty parts to the military while letting Ann's father take the legal blame.

Joe's wife appears at first like any mother who has lost a son or daughter in the military during a time of war. We view her differently as her obsessive need to believe Larry is alive becomes entwined with her conviction that her husband contributed to the needless deaths of air force pilots like him.

The Director (David Esbjornson) has updated the performance by projecting film images from World War II as backdrop to Kate's semi-conscious episodes alone. Perhaps in another decade, the images will be from Iraq or Afghanistan. However, whenever greed trumps caring in a military conflict, this play is a reminder of the dire consequences. As such, "All My Sons" transcends its time period, and remains as fresh and dramatic as ever.

February 5, 2010

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