Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
April 4, 2014
Arthur Miller sure knew how to shake people up. When “All My Sons” was first performed in 1947, it was such an indictment of the American Dream, it was used to justify the playwright’s summoning by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Based on a true story of an Ohio company that provided defective aircraft engines during World War II, the play focuses on the Keller family, and the effect of sending out cylinder heads with a hairline crack, which resulted in the death of 21 pilots. Joe Keller’s partner went to prison. Two of his sons went to war; one never came back.
Three and a half years later, the family remains on hold, the mother waiting for her son to return; the father waiting for the other shoe to drop; the remaining son crippled by survivor’s guilt. He’s dying to ask for the hand of his brother’s former sweetheart, who happens to be the daughter of Joe’s partner. When Anne and her brother arrive at the Keller house, hard truths are exposed, dreams and delusions destroyed, and every relationship is examined and recalibrated.
It’s a searing exploration of the many shades of morality and culpability, foreshadowing Miller’s masterwork, “Death of a Salesman,” with its themes of fathers and sons, idealism vs. pragmatism, and the ramifications of a faulty belief system.
Intrepid Shakespeare Company brings every layer of drama and nuance to shattering life, in a near-flawless production. Director Christy Yael-Cox helms a superb ten-member cast, anchored by the gut-wrenching performances of Tom Stephenson as self-delusional, rationalizing Joe and Brian Mackey as his principled, tortured son. Jacque Wilke , Savvy Scopelleti and Tom Hall are also noteworthy. With every scene, the noose around this family tightens, until they’re squeezed so dry that tragic collapse is inevitable.
In the effective design, a cloudless sky becomes progressively overcast. The crickets go silent. The music takes on an ominous undertone. Moral dilemmas are confronted by complex characters who , along with the timeless issues, may haunt you long after the lights go down.
This is heart-rending, thought-provoking theater that mustn’t be missed.
“All My Sons” runs through April 19, at the San Dieguito Academy Theatre in Encinitas.
©2014 PAT LAUNER