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Theater Review: All My Sons, “Timeless and Timely”

A father (Richard Fancy) pleads pleads with his son in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

Update: This remarkable production returns January 10-26, 2020 at the Pacific Resident Theatre. 

What becomes a legend most?  We all have cherished memories of plays that reframed our view of the world, entertained us in a new way or just plain wowed us. Plays we thought were the most brilliant, the funniest, the most insightful. Years later, when we see those plays again, it can be a let-down when they don’t move us in the same way. Often, they feel trite or maudlin, too obvious or manipulative.

And then there are the true classics, able to amaze, amuse or inspire after the passage of years. Able to attract new acolytes when restaged decades later.

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is such a classic. The 1947 Tony award winner for “Best Author” (a now-defunct category) is given the treatment it deserves in its current production at Pacific Resident Theatre.  If you’ve seen it before you’ll find new details, learn more about the human condition, draw fresh parallels to today.  If you’re seeing it for the first time, it will stun you.

The plot is deceptively simple: Joe and Kate Keller have two sons, Chris and Larry, both of whom served in World War II. Chris came home, Larry is MIA. Chris has invited Larry’s girlfriend, Ann, who had moved away after his disappearance, to come for a visit.

Joe (Richard Fancy) has mixed feelings about the impending visit; Kate (Terry Davis) sees it as a betrayal. She is convinced her missing son is still alive: “There’s God, so certain things can never happen.” Oh, Mother. If only.

Chris (Marc Valera) reveals his feelings to Ann (Amy-Helene Carlson) against his mother’s exhortations, setting up a family schism and the revelation of secrets and lies.

Layers build, as a straightforward Middle America set piece reveals itself as a mystery, a satire, a commentary, a moral fable and a documentary about mid-20th century society with tragic relevance to our 21st-century reality. All My Sons is the proverbial frog in a pot of water, patiently raising the temperature toward the inevitable yet surprising meltdown.

This production, sensitively directed by Elina de Santos, finds every nuance of Miller’s brilliant script. De Santos accurately described the play as “”timeless and timely” when she introduced the performance.

Spot-on scenic design by Dillon G. Artzer makes remarkable use of a small stage. As the clear-eyed father trying to salvage normalcy for his family, Richard Fancy leads the cast with an awe-inspiring performance. Supporting players add context but it’s the family and Ann who are given the most to do and, here on Venice Boulevard, they deliver in spades.

All My Sons runs through Nov. 15 at Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd.  Shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm. There are Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm on Oct. 5, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16, as well as Sunday evening performance at 7:00 pm on Sept. 29. Tickets are $29. For more information and tickets, click here or call (310) 822-8392.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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