Friday, January 11, 2013

All My Sons at OLT

On Wednesday evening Roger and I went to see the performance of Arthur Miller's All My Sons at Ottawa Little Theatre. Having seen Death of a Salesman and having read The Crucible, I was eager to experience another Miller play. All My Sons, set in post-World War II America, is about an affable factory owner named Joe Keller who failed to prevent the sale of flawed airplane parts to the military,  thus indirectly bringing about the deaths of  twenty-one American pilots. Worse, he  shifted the bulk of the blame to his former plant manager and former neighbour, who is in prison during the time frame of the play.

The audience learns this information gradually. The opening scenes show an attractive upper middle class back yard, and at first, the play seems to be about the family's grief for their son lost in war, and the surviving son's complicated feelings. It is that, to an extent, but that's not the whole story. Having served only a short term in prison, Joe Keller is back home, welcomed in his community, manufacturing household appliances now in the factory which his son, Chris, seems destined to take over. But when the discontented Chris invites Anne, the the former manager's daughter, to visit, with a view to proposing marriage to her, the wartime negligence rises as an issue again.

Wednesday evening was  opening night, and all the actors did very well. There were a few flubbed lines, but the dramatic tension was so great that a few stammers and occasional speechlessness seemed realistic.  Cheryl Jackson was strong as Kate Keller, the mother who believes that her elder son, missing in World War II, will still come home. Mike Kennedy, who plays Joe, the affable villain, was also very effective in his role.  The lighting and sound were effective too; the play starts and ends with a bang.

It's a treat to see the work of one of the great playwrights of the 20th century. Clearly, Arthur Miller was much much more than  one of Marilyn Monroe's husbands.

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