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All My Sons

LOVE AND WAR: (from left) Emilie Joanna Kulis and Warren Hemenway look surprisingly happy in All My Sons.

By Josephine Yun | Posted 9/14/2005

Truth happens. Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, currently in production at Spotlighters Theatre, is based on a true story: During World War II, a factory knowingly shipped out defective tank parts that resulted in the death of soldiers by their own equipment.

Set in 1947 over the course of one day, Sons hinges on the absence of Larry Keller, a military pilot who was reported missing in action more than three years ago. His mother, Kate (Maria Pechukas), is completely convinced he is still alive. His brother Chris (Warren Hemenway) thinks he’s at rest and would like to marry Ann (Emilie Joanna Kulis), Larry’s ex. Patriarch Joe (Steve Beall) is simply interested in Chris’ future and that of his business, which manufactured defective airplane parts during the war. Because of the faulty parts, Ann’s father, Steve—who worked for Joe at the time—went to prison.

Pretty, blond Ann returns to the Keller’s good-humored, happy couple backyard to visit Chris on this day. Jim and Sue Bayliss (Mike Nichols and Vicki Margolis) trade funny barbs across the lawn. Far-out Frank and loopy Lydia Lubey (Greg Freitag and Nikki Cimino) are affectionately airheaded. Chris professes his love to Ann. And Joe brags about his acquittal from the company fiasco, enjoying all this company.

Even when Ann’s outraged older brother George (Roy Hammond) suddenly storms the yard with their father’s side of the story, he’s temporarily sedated by Kate’s merciless onslaught of hospitable charm and guilty generosity (“You can’t fool me, I diapered you,” she says, pouring him a glass of his favorite juice) and Joe’s bullet-point list of Steve’s mistakes. Then the truth slips out about Joe’s role in Steve’s imprisonment, and Sons takes a hairpin turn into all too familiar business malfeasance.

Red wicker furniture sits atop the Spotlighters’ stage, which is transformed into a deck. Ivy and lattice adorn pillars; wood fences draped with thick foliage run along the sides, barely illuminated by a dim light. Larry Keller’s memorial tree, split by a recent storm, lends more of a backyard feel to the play, a silent foreshadowing of the ultimate calamity in this innocent setting. All My Sons succeeds at asking people to take responsibility for their bad judgments, a reminder that no matter how pleasant a present a lie builds, it can be torn down in an instant. “You can’t bull your way through this one,” Kate tells Joe. “This thing is not over yet.”

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