Attending a play in a large, Broadway-sized theatre, the Coronet (renamed the Eugene O’Neill) say, which has a capacity of 1047 seats, puts most of the audience at some remove from the onstage action. Good actors in the old days put their training to good use projecting their voices off the back wall of the theatre. Arthur Miller’s first successful play, All My Sons, opened there in 1947 with a sterling cast directed by Elia Kazan that included Ed Begley, Arthur Kennedy, Beth Merrill, Lois Wheeler, and Karl Malden. The great Mordecai Gorelik designed the set and lights.
The Pacific Residence Theatre’s production of All My Sons is staged in a more modest venue that boasts a mere forty seats putting an audience in such close proximity to the action that at times one could reach out and touch the players. In this gripping, mesmerizing production, impeccably directed by Elina de Santos, the power of the performance of this modern three-act tragedy gripped this audience member from intriguing opening and exposition, through complications, then on to searing emotion, a stunning climax, and a wistful dénouement.
All the action takes place in the back yard of the Keller Family in 1947. The war is over, but its affect on the family is still palpable. Father Joe (Richard Fancy in a titanic performance) owns a factory that produced airplane parts for the war effort. Some defective aircraft engine cylinder heads were shipped out and installed in airplanes that subsequently crashed killing twenty-one pilots. Joe put the blame on his partner and neighbor, Steve Deever. At trial Deever was found guilty and sent to prison, while Joe went on with his life. As delivered by Mr. Fancy, Joe Keller projects a kind of faux joviality with everyone. But sometimes the façade cracks a bit hinting at something nasty inside this flawed man.
Tragedy struck the family when eldest son, Larry, went missing in action and was presumed dead. Mother Kate (the ideal Terry Davis), is strong yet brittle, and believes in her heart of hearts that Larry will come back, and insists on this relentlessly. Younger son, Chris (Marc Valera in a complex, rangy performance), a veteran who brought home his own psychological war wounds, works at the family business. He has invited his dead brother’s fiancée, Ann (Amy-Helene Carlson in a tightrope performance), to come visit so he can propose marriage.
The action proceeds with evermore unreconcilable complications. Ann’s brother, lawyer George (a searing Scott Jackson), enters in a hurricane of passion with news of his and Ann’s father, Steve, after visiting him in prison. Neighbors drop by from time to time. Dr. Jim Bayliss (Scott Sheldon), is an unhappy man with an unsettled, albeit affectionate, wife, Lydia (pleasant, albeit caustic, Dalia Vosylius). Frank Lubey (cheerful Bryan Chesters), works on a horoscope that may prove that the missing son Lawrence might still be alive. His wife, Sue (delightful Katy Dowling), provides a much needed ray of warmth and sunlight. Playwright Miller gives Joe Keller a touch of humanity in early scenes with an affectionate neighborhood boy, Bert (the amiable Enzo de Angelis).
All My Sons is impeccably mounted with a lean set by Dillon G. Artzer; lighting by Matt Richter; sound design by Christopher Moscatiello; and costumes by Jennifer Pollono. Fight choreography is by Ned Mochel and graphic design is by Michelle Hanzelova. The stage is managed with assurance by Anthony C. Harris.
All My Sons, produced by Marilyn Fox for Pacific Residence Theatre, is theatre as good as it it gets. The show opened in September and runs through January 26. See it while you can at Pacific Residence Theatre, 703 Venice Boulevard in Venice, California.