A muddled casting controversy and the resignation of a prominent director no doubt diverted some early public and press attention from the Roundabout Theatre Companys revival of Arthur Millers All My Sons, but this Broadway production, opening tonight, can handle whatever comes its way. When alls said and done, Jack OBriens knock-you-from-behind staging is as powerful and sturdy as Millers post-war classic itself.
And in a shattering performance that adds yet another layer to her quietly remarkable career, Annette Bening finds grace notes in the role of the grieving Gold Star mother that brings the character to vivid, brutalized life.
Co-starring Tracy Letts (August: Osage County) and Benjamin Walker (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), All My Sons is typically considered Millers stepping stone to, or perhaps heralding of, the masterpieces: 1949s Death of a Salesman, 1953s The Crucible and 1955s A View From The Bridge. Place it where you will – as this revival reminds us, All My Sons is the very definition of the well-made play, a drama that doesnt so much disguise its intentions or hide its twists as make them all but inevitable. We see everything coming but get run over just the same.
Set in 1947, the year it was first produced, All My Sons tells of the Kellers, an Ohio family of three, formerly four, to whom the second world war has been both generous and terribly greedy. The 60-ish Joe Keller owns a factory that prospered with every airplane part that went to our boys overseas, even the faulty ones: Before he won an appeal, Joe did time in prison for his factorys knowing sale of cracked cylinder heads that sent 21 American pilots to their deaths.
That list doesnt include Joes pilot son Larry – not because the MIA soldier is alive, but because Larry didnt fly the type of plane that used the faulty part. Its one of the moral loopholes that lets Joe, barely, live with himself, and that lets his wife Kate (Bening) live at all. Kate, who some days stays in her nightgown, exists in a constant state of barely functioning denial. She wont let Joe or their second son Chris (Walker) utter anything close to a suggestion that Larry, missing for three years, is dead.
Tracy Letts, Annette Bening
The war-wounded Chris, though, is ready to move on – and is taking the huge step necessary to do so: Hes invited Ann – his longtime secret love, former girl next door and Larrys one time fiancée – back to Ohio, where hell propose.
Doing so, of course, is an acknowledgement of his brothers death, and will either send his mother completely over the edge or rescue her from the brink.
But theres another weight Ann carries: Her father is Joes former business partner, who took the fall for those bad engines and now rots in jail. Ann hasnt spoken to him in years, convinced, as is Chris, that he deserves every bad thing coming to him.
And now its all reaching a boil. Anns brother George (Hampton Fluker) has, for the first time, visited dad in jail, and George is returning to the old neighborhood with a newfound conviction that Joes been lying all these years. The truth is coming.
Played out on Douglas W. Schmidts uncannily realistic, deeply 3-D leafy suburban backyard set – convincing to every last spot of green and swing of a creaky, slamming back door – Millers tragedy unfolds like its ancient Greek ancestors, with fate in the stars (just ask the crackpot astrologer next door) and sins passed from one generation to the other.
But Millers genius was in using the old formulas to capture a very unbrave new world, drawing the demarcation between the eras disillusioned youth – theyd come to be known as the Greatest Generation, but then they just seemed broken – and the elders who had long agRead More – Source