Review: All My Sons, Ross Valley Players

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After seeing last night’s preview of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the beautiful Marin Art and Garden Center, I bemoaned Miller’s passing and wished for the power of his scathing moral critique to be unleashed on our current times. Yet, the central theme of his play is as alive today as when he wrote it, “There is a universe outside of yourself and you are responsible to that.” In other words, if you are a selfish SOB, watch out.

The play is inspired by a real-life incident of war-time corruption involving the delivery of defective airplane parts during WWII. Miller’s plot revolves around which of the two partners was actually to blame–the one sent to jail, Annie’s Dad, or Joe Keller, who was exonerated and whose yard provides the setting for the unfolding drama.

Joe fathered two sons, Larry and Chris, with his wife, Kate. Both sons fought in the war and only Chris returned home alive. Three years after Larry was reported missing over the China Sea, Kate clings to the belief that he will some day return home. Chris forces the issue by inviting Annie, Larry’s old sweetheart, to be their guest at the house so he can propose to her. Generations, values, and alibis clash in this 20th century morality play.

The cast and Director, Caroline Altman, did a great job. This is a very worthwhile production and should not be missed. If I had to grade it, I’d give it a solid B+. There were a few minor line stumbles, which is perhaps to be expected in preview.

Craig Christiansen, as Joe Keller, filled the stage with his animated and loud-mouthed seemingly amiable character. After a recent read of the play and its stage directions, I was a little jarred initially when he came off to me as someone who might sip a cappuccino at the Book Depot, rather than as an uneducated, hardworking manufacturing boss confounded by the workings of the world.

Francis Serpa delivered a solid performance as his son, Chris. However, I hesitantly say this without any professional training myself, that I thought he acted too much from his voice and head, and not enough from the rest of his body. His torso and arms at times seemed disengaged. I felt self-conscious as I watched him hold on to a teacup forever and at times left his arms dangling at his sides. I don’t know how it is done, but he has yet to fully embody his character.

Elliot Clyde did a great job as Bert in his first-ever play. Congratulations. One suggestion for him would be to slow down a bit with his lines, so he could be better understood.

And thank goodness for the delightful, bubbly Lydia Lubey character aptly played by Brandice Thompson in this otherwise heavy, emotional drama.

With all his talent, too bad Miller didn’t write comedy. Just saying.

Kudos to the cast, which also included:

Kate Keller – Kristine Ann Lowry
Sue Bayliss – Siobhan O’Brien
Annie Deever – Amber Collins Crane
George Deever – Philip Goleman
Frank Lubey – Daniel Hollander
Dr. Jim Bayliss – Javier Alarcon

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