All My Sons

Review by Willard Manus

The Geffen Theatre's revival of Arthur Miller's sixty-year-old drama, ALL MY SONS, is not only compelling but relevant, thanks to the Iraqi War revelations that faulty armored cars and protective vests have cost numerous American lives. Miller's play focuses on Joe Keller (Len Cariou), a factory owner who knowingly sold two dozen defective cylinder heads to the WW II airforce, inadvertently causing the death of his pilot son, Larry. What goes around, comes around, unfortunately.

Miller's gift (in Death of a Salesman as well) lies in his ability to make a family drama reflect larger social issues, such as the morality of capitalism and the corruption of the American Dream. Keller, a rough-hewn guy who has fought his way up from the working-class, believes that what he did was no worse than what most businessmen do to stay competitive in a dog-eat-dog world. Until the third-act revelation that his cracked cylinders did indeed cause his own son's death, Joe has been content to rationalize his transgressions and let his partner take the rap for them.

Joe's wife Kate (the admirable Laurie Metcalf) has her own reasons for taking part in the family self-deception. She is not only desperate for money and security, but refuses to accept the fact that her beloved son is dead, preferring instead to live in a fantasy world in which Larry is missing in action, alive and well somewhere.

The third Keller is another son, Chris (Neil Patrick Harris), who has returned from the war and wants to marry Larry's ex-girlfriend Ann (the captivating Amy Sloan). Her brother George (Chris Payne Gilbert) is the third-act messenger delivering the news about the cracked cylinders (and Larry's death) which leads to the collapse of the House of Keller.

Director Randall Arney has given Miller's play a solid, respectful production. Working on a sumptuous backyard set, Arney's cast, led by Cariou and Metcalf and supported by the other eight actors (and by Daniel Ionazzi's lighting design and David Mickelsen's costumes), weighs in with equally strong performances. ALL MY SONS is a grey, gritty play, a tragedy to be sure, but its plea for honesty and compassion still rings true today.

Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Call (310) 208-5454 or (213) 365-3500