Theater preview: Dark play, deep messages
The play opens to a scene of a typical American house with green grass, lawn chairs sprinkled throughout the front yard and, of course, the white picket fence. Little does the audience know that such a normal, domestic looking household could hold so much deception and distress.
Originally inspired by hard times in the Great Depression era, the Whitworth Theatre is presenting its spring production of “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller, hoping to convey the same messages that were originally meant for 1947 audiences.
“All My Sons” is a poignant tale of a family caught up in dealing with a lack of moral responsibility mixed with greed and a twist of denial.
“The play is based around the life of a family and their domestic interactions and how that plays out into the American dream,” said Maery Simmons, the stage manager of the production and senior English literature and general theater major.
The father, Joe Keller, is a self-made, successful factory owner who was blamed for the death of 21 American pilots during World War II. He was accused of knowingly sending defective airplane parts overseas. When incarcerated for his crime, he escapes a longer sentence by putting full responsibility for the incident on his business partner. The plot gets even thicker when the imprisoned business partner’s daughter, Ann, is to marry Joe’s son Chris. Ann had previously been betrothed to Joe’s youngest son Larry, who had gone missing three years prior. The story gets deeper still, as secrets are unveiled and truths are revealed in a climatic ending to the play.
“I think the message resonates today just as much as it resonated back [when “All My Sons” first premiered],” said Susan Hardie, the production’s guest director. “Miller is asking if our responsibilities lie only to ourselves and our own interests, or if we have a greater responsibility to the world at large. I think that message really makes a lot of sense today.”
The play itself is full of twists and turns that keep viewers guessing, right until the very last scene. The production has a lot of depth that will also leave the audience thinking.
“This is my favorite kind of theater,” Hardie said. “I love digging deep and going into people’s hearts and minds; it’s really what it’s all about.”
Miller is most known for his darker themed plays; “Death of a Salesman,” for example, takes place in a very difficult era of America’s history. One can assume lightheartedness is not exactly one of the main themes in this play either.
“It’s really emotionally draining,” said Rhiannon Batson, junior theater major and actress playing Anne. “When I come back from rehearsals all I want to do is sleep, but the seriousness of the play also puts a lot more pressure on me to take it seriously.”
Although the themes of death and sorrow are present, the deeper messages underlying the tragedies are valuable.
“There are a lot of interesting themes surrounding money, the different responsibilities corporations have to the community and how money can affect a family situation, both good and bad,” Batson said. “Also, there is a strong theme of the importance of family and what you are willing to risk to preserve that.”
Hardie said she is excited to see what the audience’s reaction will be to the production. She said she has enjoyed working with the Whitworth cast and theatre department, and that eeling seems to be mutual.
“I absolutely love Susan,” Simmons said. “She has fit in really well with our ‘family’ here at Whitworth.”
Batson also commented on Hardie’s flexibility and personable style as a director.
“Susan is very good at communicating with the actors really well and making sure we feel good about it too,” Batson said. “It’s a very cooperative process.”
Take time out of your schedule to go see this thought-provoking production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons." Performances will be March 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m., and March 4 at 2 p.m. in Cowles Memorial Auditorium.
Story by Jacqueline Goldman
Contact Jacqueline Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Tanner Scholten