‘All My Sons’
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: Through May 18
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivic.org
A check of my book case confirms that the esteemed playwright Arthur Miller penned more than 20 full-length plays and more than a dozen one-acts in his 60-plus-year career — a noble and impressive output of work.
So why, with myriad choices, must local theater companies keep choosing the same four plays — “Death of a Salesman,” “A View from the Bridge,” “The Crucible” and “All My Sons” — to produce for theatergoers?
Answer? These are the best.
Years ago, I had a literature professor who derisively referred to “All My Sons” as “Miller Lite.” This jab appealed to my youthful impertinence and at the time, I agreed with her: The play paled when compared with Miller’s masterwork, “Death of a Salesman.”
But now when I experience a production of “All My Sons” I find the play expertly crafted, satisfying and memorable, and still relevant — 65 years after its premiere. I’m converted. I didn’t like broccoli back then either. Tastes change.
Based on a true story, “All My Sons” chronicles a day in the life of Joe Keller (here played by Bill Daisak), a successful metals manufacturer. During World War II, Keller knowingly sold defective military equipment to U.S. forces abroad rather than take a loss by correcting the flaws. He dodged prison by making his partner the fall guy, and successfully built his life back up, burying the guilt and pretending to believe the lie of his innocence. But his choice of personal gain for himself and his family over responsibility to his country starts to crack and crumble when his deceased son’s fiancé comes to visit.
Miller’s play, obsessed with the power of a lie and importance of social responsibility, is a morals-driven drama that works without disintegrating into lecture.
Albany Civic’s production, under the capable guidance of director Aaron Holbritter, is for the most part, fine. The telling of the story is clean and clear, but the tension and fear that plagues the characters and the lies they conceal is not steadily sustained. This is most notable with the difficult character of Joe Keller. Daisak wonderfully shows us the easy-going good guy Joe, but the tortured, scared man with a dark secret is more elusive. Angela Potrikus’ take on his troubled wife, Kate, is dexterous and true, maybe overly so, leaving us to wonder why the neighbors like her if she’s so outwardly troubled.
Truly connected to character is Ian LaChance as Keller’s surviving son, Chris. With the final scene, a showdown between two men with different ideals, LaChance gives a controlled bravura performance that is rich and ripe, and nicely compliments the evening’s dramatic heft.
In the smaller roles, Isaac Newberry’s honest doctor Jim, and Katie Patrick as the housewife who settled, Lydia, have just the right touch and successfully round out the neighborhood.
Rich Montena has crafted a sensible set and dressed it well. David Caso’s lighting captures the passing time of day with success and Beth Ruman’s costumes compliment without distraction.
If you have never seen a production of “All My Sons,” this one is worth a visit. But just a warning, this ain’t no Miller Lite.