Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is a classic piece of theater. This play showcases what Miller did best — bring sweeping epic dramas to American theater that dealt with “the regular guy.” Sons is a play about family, war and doing the right thing. In more recent years, the play has become a footnote in pop culture thanks to the band 21 Pilots, who derived their name from the play after a school assignment (their reason, reportedly, was that they would always remember to do the right thing). At first the audience believes they’re watching a family drama unfold that is dealing with the fallout of losing one son at war, however, if you’re familiar with the play, you know that more and more is discovered. Although I assumed that anyone sitting down to see this show was entirely familiar with it, the audience and my theater partner for the evening quickly showed me that I was wrong. So, in that spirit, I will not go into too many plot details or spoilers. As someone well versed in this play, it was a real treat to see how other people reacted to watching the Kellers’ drama unfold for the first time.
Director Tony Annicone has assembled a tremendously talented cast for this production in each and every role. The setting is a backyard in a neighborhood, and, as in real life, people flit in and out as the time passes. There’s the busy doctor next door played wonderfully by Russ Smith, whose wife is annoyed with his house calls (but enjoys the level of security it gives her), played by the always outstanding Denise Izzi. Newcomer, and youngest cast member, Caden W. Oates, was absolutely endearing as Bert, the precocious boy who enjoys telling on the other children. This is not an easy show for such a young one, and Caden did a great job! The married couple next door, Frank and Lydia Lubey, played by Jeffrey Massery and Jennifer Mensel, provided necessary moments of light-heartedness. Massery’s earnestness and desire to help shone through her performance, and Mensel sparkled as she flitted in and out of the Kellers’ backyard.
As for the Kellers, Lynda DiStefano was a tour de force as Kate Keller. Her performance will literally have you on the edge of your seat; she was absolutely magnificent. Ron Martin’s portrayal of Joe Keller was especially strong when he feels life unravelling in Act One. The “little man” monologue was an especially strong moment. Their surviving son, Chris (Christopher Ferreira), has invited his brother’s former girlfriend, Ann Deaver (Carolyn Coughlin), home in the hopes of marriage. Their scenes together were fantastic; you could see their internal struggles clearly. Ferreira in particular has some standout moments in the second and third acts. Ferreira and DiStefano absolutely broke my heart at one point. When George (Michael Pugliese) walked in, the air in the theater changed. He’s haunted, despondent and Pugliese’s portrayal was just incredible.
Although parts of Miller’s script now seem outdated (there’s only so many lines I can bear about “her legs” and “she looks intelligent”), the guts of the play still resonate. And the light-heartedness shone through when needed (although my research hasn’t proven this, I stand by my assertion that Joe’s Labor Day joke was Broadway’s first ever dad joke). In the end, the Kellers could be seen as a lesson in gaslighting, something we see unfold frequently today – a lesson in doing what is right, even if it hurts you, and leaves you questioning everything.
All My Sons is running at the Arctic Playhouse until Sep 27. Tickets can be purchased online at thearcticplayhouse.com