Community Players’ 95th Season Begins with Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
Community Players’ 2017-2018 season starts with a classic play of high drama and deep secrets.
After his first play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, failed on Broadway, Arthur Miller turned to fiction, publishing one novel, Focus, before hearing a story from his mother-in-law about a woman in Ohio who turned in her own father for fraud in his defense plant. This inspired him to write a new play, originally titled The Sign of the Archer, but eventually becoming All My Sons.
Miller set his play in Ohio, where, before the action of the play begins, Joe Keller and his partner in a manufacturing plant were arrested for selling defective airplane parts to the navy. Twenty-one pilots died before the bad parts were discovered. The partner went to prison, but Joe managed to prove that he had been home sick the day the parts were shipped out. On the day the play begins two years after the war, the Keller business is thriving, but the Keller home life is anxious. Joe’s wife, Kate, is convinced that their older son, who was reported missing in action, is alive somewhere and bound to return to them. Joe tries to manage her fantasy, but when younger son Chris announces his engagement to Ann, the missing son’s fiancée and the jailed partner’s daughter, long repressed secrets threaten to resurface. As it turns out, Ann holds a secret of her own.
All My Sons opened on Broadway on January 29, 1947, enjoyed a run of 328 performances, and established Miller as an important young playwright. The original cast included Ed Begley, Arthur Kennedy, and Karl Malden. It was named best play of the year by the Drama Critics Circle, and Miller and director Elia Kazan were honored with Tony Awards. There have been three major New York revivals: one in 1987, starring Richard Kiley; one in 1997, starring John Cullum; and one in 2008 starring John Lithgow. In 1948 a successful film version was released, with Edward G. Robinson, Mady Christians, and Burt Lancaster. A 1987 made-for-television movie adaptation starred James Whitmore, Michael Learned, and Aidan Quinn. In interviews even late in life, Miller insisted that this story of abjured responsibility and companies putting expediency and profits over human life was more relevant than ever.
Our production boasts a strong cast that is blended with veterans and promising newcomers. Players stalwart Dave Lemmon returns to our stage as family patriarch Joe Keller. He is joined by Darlene Lloyd as his wife, Kate, and Len Childers as their son, Chris. Rachel Houska plays Ann Deever, who is the Kellers’ former neighbor and Chris’s fiance. Nick Benson plays her brother George. The Kellers’ current neighbors are played by Andy Cary as Dr. Jim Bayliss, Karlene Dryer as his wife, Sue, Jeff Ready as Frank Lubey, and Ashleigh Feger as his wife, Lydia. Young Mason Jones plays the neighbor kid, Bert. Childers, Houska, Dryer, and Jones are all making their Players’ debuts. All of the actors are comfortable in their characterizations and successfully deliver the ranges of emotions demanded by Miller’s dialogue.
All My Sons is a “Parrish & Parrish” production, with Bruce Parrish directing and Kathy Parrish producing. This is also another “Plotkin & Plotkin” production, with Rich Plotkin serving as sound designer/engineer and Carol Plotkin doing properties. Jay Hartzler is assistant director, and Dorothy Mundy is stage manager, Dan Virtue designed the lighting and sound effects, Eddy Arteman is costumer; and Wendi Ayers is house manager.
All the action of the play takes place in the Keller backyard. The beautiful set has been designed and built by Nick Kilgore. (Speaking of returning veterans, it is good to see our century-old tree flats taking a prominent spot on the set!)
All My Sons is an American classic and compelling drama. It contains a few expletives, and there are some intense moments, especially in the play’s second and third acts, which make the play somewhat unsuitable for the very young. However, it is a must-see for teens and above.
The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, August 31 with regular performances September 1-3 and 8-10. As usual, evening performances begin at 7:30 with Sunday matinees at 2:30. There is an intermission after the play’s first act and just a brief blackout between Acts II and III.
Photos by John Lieder