All My Sons

Trey Thompson and Mary Cobb console each other in <i>All My Sons</i>.

Trey Thompson and Mary Cobb console each other in All My Sons.

Rated 4.0

Most theatergoers know Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and perhaps The Crucible. However, the 1947 play All My Sons was Miller’s first big breakthrough. It’s unfamiliar to many viewers nowadays, but it’s well worth knowing.The story concerns a factory owner who knowingly sold defective airplane-engine parts to the military during World War II, resulting in the death of more than 20 airmen. The knowledge and guilt stemming from what he did gradually destroys two families in this moral, tragic drama. It’s all about people living in denial, letting someone else take the fall and trying to pretend that things will be OK. (One can’t help contrasting this deeply moral and plainly written play with the intellectual wizardry and mind-gaming in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, over at the Sacramento Theatre Company, in which sex, affection—and everything else—are basically negotiable.)

Director Lee Elliot takes quite a while to rev this small community production up to speed—and with two intermissions, it’s not a short show. Some of Trey Thompson’s opening scenes as clean-cut son Chris Keller are a little tentative, and Miller’s dialogue involving the astrology-minded next-door neighbor is too clearly intended to imply that we’re witnessing a situation that was fated to play out this way.

Nonetheless, once this show is on a roll, it takes on considerable power and inevitability—leading up to a climax that jolts the audience. It’s worth the price of admission just to see the strong performance of John Walck (as Joe Keller, the factory owner) as he comes to the full realization of what he’s done.

Reservations are advised for All My Sons. Some performances are already sold out.