To call Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. Not even the thrill of Magic Mountain’s Superman: Escape from Krypton or New Jersey’s Kingda Ka can compare to the experience of the audience member watching this play. When done right, this production should have the viewer laughing at one moment, and then sobbing at the next. GW’s Department of Theater and Dance did it right.
The play takes place shortly after WWII and centers on the Keller family. Joe Keller, the father, works at a factory making aircraft engine cylinder heads for the U.S. Army Air Force. The conflict in the play revolves around Joe’s involvement in the selling of damaged cylinder heads which caused the deaths of 21 pilots. Joe is charged with the crime but exonerated. For more than three years, he blames the incident on his neighbor and business partner, Steve Deever.
While it’s obvious to the audience that Joe is guilty, it takes a while for the characters in the play to catch on. Kate Keller, Joe’s wife, is preoccupied with the mourning of her eldest son, Larry, who has been missing for three years after going off to fight in the war. The younger Keller son, Chris, idolizes his father to a fault. Only when Steve Deever’s son, George, arrives with proof of Joe’s guilt does Chris awaken to reality. At that point, Chris’ image of his father is destroyed and he begins to question everything he thought he knew about the world.
Hannah Sessler, who played Lydia Lubey in the GW production, said one question guided the entire play: who are you responsible for? Was Joe responsible for the deaths of the 21 pilots? Chris ultimately decides yes, although that was the secret all along.
Despite having a small cast of 10 and a mere month to prepare, the GW Theater Department did Miller’s play justice. The students truly invested in understanding their characters, and it paid off in each and every line.