"All My Sons" at the Geffen Theater: A Passionate Revival of a Timeless Tragedy

(L to R) Neil Patrick Harris as Chris Keller, Laurie Metcalf as Kate Keller, and Tony-winning Len Cariou as Joe Keller

The Geffen Playhouse continues its 10th Anniversary Season with Arthur Miller's classic, All My Sons, featuring multiple Tony Award-winning Len Carious as Joe Keller, Neil Patrick Harris as Chris, Laurie Metcalf as Kate Keller, and Amy Sloan as Ann Deever. Directed by Geffen Artistic Director, Randy Arney, the production continues the Geffen's decade-long Festival of American Originals, a celebration of theater that explores and defines the American experience.

Laurie Metcalf plays Kate Keller, Tony-winning Len Cariou plays Joe Keller

The original All My Sons opened in 1947 to a post-WWII audience who were not yet healed from the emotional and physical wounds of war. The play was tremendously successful, winning the triple crown of theatrical artistry that year: the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and the Tony Award for Best Play. Running for an astounding 328 performances, it is widely known as Arthur Miller's first stage success.

(L to R) Laurie Metcalf as Kate Keller and Amy Sloan as Ann Deever

All My Sons is a compelling story of familial love, guilt, and moral choices. The play brings us Joe Keller, an affluent businessman, who made his fortune by selling airplane parts to the army during World War II. Not wanting to slow business or lose his government contracts, Keller knowingly sends out a batch of defective airplane parts to the army which results in the deaths of 21 pilots, and creates a domino effect of devastation in both his life and the lives of others.

Laurie Metcalf as Kate Keller, Tony-winning Len Cariou as Joe Keller

In this Americanized Greek tragedy, Miller examines the ramifications of the misguided, yet well-intentioned moral choices of the archetypal 'All-American' family. The Kellers personify the capitalistic American Dream: Joe is a self-made, successful businessman; Kate is a doting mother and wife; and both sons, Chris and Larry, served their country well in the war. However, while the family engages in seemingly light-hearted banter, their psyches are beleaguered with the weight of deep-rooted secrets, life lost, and an insufferable future.

 

(L to R) Neil Patrick Harris as Chris Keller and Tony-winning Len Cariou as Joe Keller

 The actors' convey the complexities of the characters with a superb artistry. The relationships within the Keller family and the psyche of each member individually are intricate and oxymoronic: Joe is a loving and loyal father, but betrays his country; Kate is a frail and broken-hearted woman, yet survives the perpetual storms pounding her family; Chris is idealistic and hopeful, but at the same time, is imprisoned in his war-time past by guilt for having lived; and Larry, whom we never see, is the dependably perfect son whose actions inevitably cause the most suffering a parent can imagine. The actors, then, must negotiate these contradicting characteristics and convey them to the audience without completely revealing or hiding everything.      

The performances of the cast were truly awe-inspiring. From the end of the first act on, this play and this cast build to an almost unbearable crescendo. With a standing ovation, it was quite apparent that the casts' passion exploded off the stage and into the hearts and minds of the audience.

Photographs by Michael Lamont

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