An Arthur Miller Classic from 1947, currently being staged by Austin City Theatre, is a timeless look at the wages of war.
“I resent living next door to The Holy Family!” exclaims busybody Sue Bayliss (played by Christine Little-Manley). Who wouldn’t? It’s a tough act to live up to. Only in this case they are not so holy, the family consisting of Joe and Kate Keller (played by Rick Smith and Tracy Hurd) and their son Chris (Sean Gordon).
There are many eddies of action in this whirlpool of post-World War II angst. One of these is the unlikely love affair between Chris and Ann (Katrin Otterness), the daughter of the very person who is languishing in prison because of Joe’s actions, or inactions, as the manufacturer of flawed aircraft parts for the war effort. Who is to blame is the motivating factor of the play, which results in a conclusion so dramatic it propelled Miller to theatrical stardom. All My Sons was just the second play he wrote in career than spanned seven decades. He died in 2005 as the nation’s foremost playwright.
Thus it is a special treat to look back here at the earliest part of his career, in the capable hands of a very fine cast that also includes Ty Wiley as Ann’s angry brother, Beau Paul as Sue’s husband, Phillip Smith and Marett Hanes as the next-door astrologer Frank and his wife Lydia, and Joe Colaleo as the neighbourhood boy.
Phony attitudes prevail. Sue accuses Chris of “phony idealism.” Then there is the phony astrology of Frank, who was convinced Chris’ brother did not die in the war because his supposed day of death was too auspicious for such a terrible thing to happen. And the ultimate phony life, exemplified by Joe. The tension between father and son, played by Smith and Gordon, is the lynchpin of the play, and done superbly by both.
Little-Manley convincingly plays the mother who won’t let go of her dead son. “Some superstitions are very nice,” she says matter-of-factly. This misplaced hope seems to be the only sincerity in the play, even though it dooms her handsome son to perpetual limbo. He can’t marry Ann because the dead son will reappear, and they are to be married!
A fine psychological autopsy of an American family, All My Sons is another stellar offering by the City Theatre, this time in the safe hands of director Tracy Arnold, who received her degree in directing from Texas State University.
All My Sons plays through June 3, 2018.