With a salute to Veteran’s Day, “All My Sons” explores the many sacrifices made during World War II. With Arthur Miller’s enduring writing and portrayal of universal struggles, this drama’s powerful message still resonates today.
Miller believed theater could “change the world.” His break-out play, “All My Sons” wrestles with the changing social fabric of post-World War II and man’s responsibility to other men. Premiering on Broadway in 1947 when Miller was only 31, it won two Tony Awards, including Best Author (his first of two, with “Death of a Salesman” being his second). Elements Theatre Company’s portrayal of this masterful play is nothing less than stellar.
Joe Keller is a blue-collar man at heart who, embodying the American Dream, rose through the ranks from laborer to successful factory owner. Christopher Kanaga plays him with the likability of a man’s man that belies the demons that haunt him.
Sister Danielle Dwyer is Joe’s wife, Kate, who refuses to believe their son Larry died in the war three years earlier after he went missing during a flight mission. Dwyer masterfully maintains Kate’s veil of denial while constantly controlling all aspects of her and her family’s lives, whether using her amazing charms or her sheer will to do so.
Ryan Winkles portrays the Kellers’ remaining son, Chris, who is heir to the family’s fortunes. Winkle compellingly depicts Chris’ internal struggles — wanting to keep the peace and not confront his mother’s denial, but also needing to move on with his life. He represents the family’s hopes for the future, and through his idealism, Chris is held in high regard by many, in direct contrast to his father’s tarnished reputation after the factory was held accountable for faulty manufacturing.
Ann Deever is the daughter of Joe’s imprisoned business partner, who is serving time for releasing defective engine parts that brought about the death of 21 World War II pilots. Stephanie Haig exemplifies the classic girl-next-door virtues, as her character Ann is symbolic of hope and renewal — having been promised to Larry but now being courted by his brother Chris.
Elements’ attention to detail is noteworthy throughout the drama, but upon entering the theater, one is instantly captivated by the spectacularly looming set of the Keller home and realistic yard. The meticulously constructed first and second floors of the colonial fade into solely framed windows on the third floor, suggestive of a much less grounded and defined future for the Keller family.
Elements’ acting troupe is traditionally directed by Dwyer, but once in a while they have a guest director. From Britain’s Oxford School of Drama, international director Joanna Weir Ouston highlights the relatable and ordinary qualities of Miller’s characters who are put in extraordinary situations. The whole cast of 13 embodies this sentiment, which ultimately makes the characters’ action less black and white, especially as the Kellers struggle with their duty to family versus their duty to society and whether the ends can justify the means.
As always, Elements’ costumes are works of art, especially the women’s handmade dresses that are richly adorned with diamond buttons, and historically correct, fuller skirts, exemplifying the greater availability of fabric, after war rationing.
Filled with a web of lies, guilt, and ultimately, the search for the hope and truth, Elements’ “All My Sons” is an intensely dramatic and praiseworthy portrayal of Miller’s early masterpiece.
“All My Sons”
At Elements Theatre Company, Rock Harbor, Orleans
Through Nov. 20
Information and reservations: 508-240-2400