Encinitas, CA---It didn’t take much for me to convince myself that I had to bite the bullet and schlep out of the house with my walker (just home from knee replacement surgery) and have my good friend Debbie Luce take me out to Encinitas to see one of my favorite Arthur Miller 1947 “All My Sons” at Intrepid Shakespeare Company. I never once regretted the decision.
Had Miller been alive today, he might have picked up on the scandal surrounding the automobile industry and the defective work some companies are shoving under the rug and pretending not to notice. Defective cars are on the road and consumers are dying as a result of their actions. Years after the fact the Feds are finally getting around to holding hearings.
But at the time in 1942 this country was at war and according to an article brought to his attention regarding faulty airplane parts, Miller penned “All My Sons” and put real faces and real consequences to amoral actions all done for the sake of the all- mighty buck. The domino effect was imminent death to those brave service men flying plane’s with faulty equipment.
Joe Keller and his best friend, next-door neighbor and business partner Steve Deever, owned a manufacturing plant that was government contracted to manufacture and supply airplane parts to the US Army.
At some point in time, when the aircraft engine cylinders were in demand and the partners were under pressure to satisfy their contract, defective parts (there were cracks in the cylinder heads) were among those shipped. It just so happened that on that fateful day, Joe, who had never been sick a day in his life, nor for that matter, missed a day of work, called in sick. When Steve called to see what he should do, Joe told him to send out the order.
It was later discovered that because of the defective parts twenty-seven planes went down killing all aboard. Both men were arrested and accused of selling faulty parts but Joe managed an appeal claiming that he never spoke with Steve and that Steve acted on his own. Joe was set free leaving Steve to serve out the jail sentence and ignored until now by his daughter Ann and son George.
As it fate would have it both of Joe's sons were overseas serving at the time. Larry, who was engaged to Ann, never returned and Chris who watched some of his men die, was sent home filled with guilt at having seen the worst of war. He is now in the family business but carries that guilt with him always. Kate, Joe’s wife still believes that Larry is alive and won’t even acknowledge that he might have died. Every one tiptoes around her so as not to upset the applecart.
But things are about to change as we pick up the story three and a half years later, 1947, in Joe’s backyard (credit Christy Yael-Cox and Sean Yeal-Cox) where both Ann, whom we learn is planning on marrying Chris, and George who has broken his vow of silence with his father (he is now a NY attorney) stand face to face with the past, present and future. Kate is noticeably nervous and agitated about what might come of the visits as she too has more at stake than meets the eye.
Shock waves the likes of which no one would have thought possible just months prior, ricochet throughout the Keller household as only Miller can do. With director Christy Yael-Coxat the helm, and with just the right touch to nudge every ounce of credibility and gut wrenching emotion, without being overly melodramatic, out of her top notch cast in this wonderfully acted show, this is one production not to miss.
Miller’s 1947 play ran for only 328 performances but still managed to win the Tony Award for Best Author and Best Director of a Play. His criticism of the American Dream, which caused the downfall of Keller and the destruction of his family that lies at the heart of “All My Sons” was the main reason Miller was called before the House Committee on Un American Activities in the 50’s. He was called out for his left leaning thinking and critique of greed and mendacity.
What the powers that be failed to notice was the enormous tragedy that lies just beneath that struggle for that dream. Joe played with precision accuracy and unflinching reality by Tom Stephenson runs the gamut of emotion from ‘man on top of the world’ to finally getting that the boys that were killed by his decision to let the order go were ‘all his sons” and that hits at the heart of Miller’s essay.
Brian Mackey is the goodness and blind innocence of son Chris who wants to believe with his entire being that his father is innocent of any wrongdoing. He is wonderfully convincing.
Jacque Wilke is the perfect Ann Deever. It looks like she stepped right out of a 1950’s (credit Kristin McReddie) bandbox. More than anything she doesn’t hold back on her and facial expressions and feelings as she subtly moves from just happy to be back in the fold to knowing that that is the farthest thing from her reality. She does it to perfection.
Tom Hall has all the right moves as he hesitatingly steps into the Keller backyard, does an about face when he sees Kate and finally, he too knows that the truth will out. Savvy Scopelleti plays Kate with all the pent up emotions only a mother can understand, on the one hand and a concerned that wife knows her husband all too well, on the other. When she cautions Joe: “Be smart, Joe, be smart” you know how complicated she is and that something is amiss and in her oft times demanding and stubborn way, she is ahead of them all.
I know I would have kicked my self if I had missed this production. You will as well of you don’t hightail it to Encinitas before the weekend.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through April 19th
Organization: Intrepid Shakespeare Company
Production Type: Drama
Where: 800 Sante Drive, Encinitas 92024
Ticket Prices: $35.00
Venue: San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Center