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Arvada Center showcases Miller’s troubled American family

"All My Sons" plays intermittently through May 3


Lynne Collins, director of Arvada Center’s Arthur Miller production “All My Sons,” writes that she considers “All My Sons” to be “his most American, most honest and most perfect play.” She continues about our love for a success story and the courage it took for “the then-unknown Miller to explore the dark side of this American Dream” when this play was first staged in January 1947, 70 years ago.

Made especially strong by Collins’ casting and Arvada Center’s always-solid production values (set, sound, lights, costumes), this less-performed gem by Miller should appeal to most area theater lovers. It runs in a cycle with “Sense and Sensibility” and “Electric Baby” through May 3. (We’d urge readers to plan ahead to obtain tickets for this very successful trio of plays. Tickets are tight for the smaller Black Box Theatre, which is an intimate and perfect setting.)                  

The March 18 performance we attended featured understudy Greg Ungar, new to the Arvada Center Repertory Company this season, in the lead role as central figure Joe Keller (due to the illness of Sam Gregory). Ungar was outstanding in the role, skillfully portraying the Midwestern, less-than-polished businessman who created the image of the American Dream with his successful manufacturing company. His son Chris (Lance Rasmussen), a stressed war veteran, is reluctantly groomed to succeed him while Joe and his wife Kate (the always-strong Emma Messenger) mourn the loss of their older son, Larry, who died during wartime.

Collins continues that this play has “echoes of Greek tragedy” as it offers the story of a flawed man who justified his dishonest act as done for his sons’ future benefit. It’s an age-old story that continues today — think of recent headlines.

The parallel tale of sad Kate, who refuses to accept the fact that her son is dead, adds to the tragic vein, as others struggle to move on with living. Younger son Chris wants to marry Larry’s former girlfriend, Ann Deever (Regina Fernandez), who with her brother George (Geoffrey Kent), grew up next door.

Collins stages this compelling work about decisions that are made for the sake of profit, in a setting that could be any comfortable-but-not-fancy Midwestern back yard, circa August 1947, with assorted neighbors wandering in and out, as they would have done at that time—though not so much today.

Ann’s anguished brother George arrives and changes the dynamics of the tale for all concerned. Kent perhaps overplays slightly, but there’s no doubt that his account of his recent visit to his imprisoned father, Joe’s former business partner, takes the fresh air out of the room.

As usual, the setting, lighting and sound were spot-on as this tragedy unfolded.

Miller’s distinctive, carefully structured plays are regarded as American classics and, like earlier classics, are well worth revisiting when possible. Or, for a younger audience, so valuable in building a background in American cultural history.


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