All My Sons

“I’m in business—you got a process, the process don’t work, you’re out of business. What could I do? Let them take forty years? Let them take my life away?” Joe Keller’s plea reverberates through his suburban neighborhood, as his wife and son, his neighbors and his daughter-in-law-to-be react with anger, with hurt, with hatred in Shakespeare in the Park’s presentation of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.

It is a tragedy, a morality play, but it also is suburban America after World War II. The characters are not the lofty heroes of Sophocles and Aeschylus, but rather neighbors and friends, recognizable for their quirks and aspirations, their pretenses, their gossiping. Set designer Dave Beasley’s comfortable back yard, with its shrubs and tools and screened-in porch, removes the separation between actors and audience: One is there, leaning over the back fence, listening, watching as Joe Keller (Michael Acosta) and wife Kate (Drenia Acosta) banter and bicker about the son who didn’t return from the war and the one who did.

The bickering, fantasies and denials reach a boiling point when the younger son, Chris (Callen Reece), reveals his intentions to ask the dead brother’s fiancée, Ann (Jocelyn Stringer), to marry him. The happy, successful middle-class family slowly tears apart, confirming neighbor Dr. Jim Bayliss’s (Quentin Colgan) sad testimonial: “Every man does have a star. The star of one’s honesty. You spend your life groping for it but once it’s out it never lights again.”

In an era when making monetary profit at whatever human cost is again an international issue, All My Sons is as pertinent today as it was half a century ago. For Arthur Miller, personal honesty was both the greatest necessity and greatest virtue.

To director Joyce Henderson’s credit, the ensemble cast never sacrifices believability for pacing or moral statement. Drenia Acosta gives a tour de force performance as the alternately charming and nastily bitchy Kate.

Michael Acosta is solid as Joe Keller. Contemporary audiences may find Reece and Stringer overly coy as young lovers, but both come across with force and intensity as the final scenes unfold. Jeremy Votava as Ann’s brother and Teresa Hurley, Betty Burns and Steve Oberlander as the neighbors give great cameo performances. So do Thaddeus Morris and Heather Oberlander, 8 and 7 years old, respectively, in their first Shakespeare in the Park speaking roles.