After surviving the brutal yet extremely funny production of August: Osage County at the Arden Theatre Company (Philadelphia) yesterday, I was ready for a wholesome classic play by Arthur Miller. My friend Katt and I took a jaunt to the Delaware Theatre Company to see the playwright's family drama set in 1947, All My Sons (the first production of DTC's 2011-2012 season). Although August: Osage County premiered in 2007, 60 years after the premiere of Miller's play, both productions dealt with the same theme—dysfunctional families. (Apparently nothing has changed over the years.)
Cast (from left) P.J. Benjamin as Joe Keller, Robert Eli as Chris Keller,
Jered McLenigan as George Deever, and
Anne-Marie Cusson as Kate Keller. Photo credit: Matt Urban.
Set in post–World War II, All My Sons is the story of successful business owner Joe Keller, who grew up poor and undereducated, and his family. Joe is the kind of guy who will do anything to keep his family happy and living in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, regardless of the consequences. Joe's wife, Kate, still holds hope that their eldest son, missing-in-action for three years, will come home. Their younger, more realistic son, Chris, has returned home from the war and now works for his father. The play begins the morning after a harsh storm as the family is preparing for a visit from their elder son's widow. Once she arrives, the layers of family guilt and unethical practices begin to unravel, with help from the family's neighbors.
The cast, directed by David Stradley, found the soul of the play and brought their grueling characters to life. P.J. Benjamin, in particular, gave an award-worthy performance as a loving father with a secret—a complex role perfectly executed. He and his colleagues performed on a set that evoked the feeling of living in a 1940s middle-class American “anytown”. The cast was met with a standing ovation, which was also to recognize everyone involved with this timeless play. I'm sure this cast will see a standing room at the end of every performance!
Driving home, Katt and I contemplated how the theme of the play still rings true today. How many mothers today are hoping their sons and daughters in the current war will come home? How many businessmen are making unethical decisions based on money rather than the greater good?
And, how many families are unable to face their problems and live "normal" lives? Based on these plays and the stories on the nightly news…perhaps not many….oy vey!