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(L to R): Karla Johnson, Alex Erickson, Rebecca Timmins, M.S. Bernard. - photo by John Erickson

A Play for Our Times Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’ at BCT

Web posted November 26, 2019
A classic of the American theatre, a play which set into motion the career of one of the most important playwrights of the 20th Century, a modern version of classical Greek tragedy. These are each a description of ‘All My Sons,’ written by Arthur Miller, and which will be the Brainerd Community Theatre’s next production. Performances are December 5-7 and 12-13 at 7:30 p.m., and December 14 at 2 p.m. All shows are in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.

Miller had suffered a humiliating failure when his first Broadway offering, ‘The Man Who Had All the Luck,’ closed after only four performances. He set about writing a second play, with the vow that if it also failed he would seek a line of work other than writing for the stage. When his then mother-in-law pointed out a story in the newspaper about how a military contractor had produced defective engines for WWII military aircraft, Miller had his play. The result, ‘All My Sons,’ ran for 328 performances and won the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and earned Miller a Tony for Best Author. It also revived his career.

The play’s director, Patrick Spradlin, pointed to themes and ideas in the play that he believes hold currency for contemporary audiences. “We’ve seen war profiteering during the Iraq/Afghanistan wars,” said Spradlin, “so the basic plot line of this play still holds true. When you also take into account the Boeing 737 MAX scandal, where defective planes were literally falling out of the sky, I think audiences will find other connections.”

Spradlin was also drawn to the play for the way it poses questions of morality. “The character of Chris Keller, decorated veteran of the war, holds very dear the ideals of serving this nation. To him, it’s altruistic, it’s second nature, it’s the pinnacle of what it means to be a citizen. It’s all the more jarring to Chris when he discovers during the play that there are those near and dear to him who see expediency and personal gain as reason to ignore their duty to country and to allies.”

In ‘All My Sons’ we meet the Keller family: Joe, the patriarch, who owns and operates a factory that produced aircraft engine parts for use in fighter planes in WWII. His wife, Kate, is struggling to keep alive the memory of son Larry, missing and presumed dead by everyone but Kate. Chris, surviving son and veteran of many battles in the war, has returned home only to be disillusioned at the type of society that sees a war as little more than ‘a bus accident.’

Ann Deever was Larry’s fiancée, now romantically attached to Chris, and ready to move on with life by marrying him. Her father was Joe’s business partner, now serving time in prison for covering up the defects in the engine parts that eventually led to the deaths of 21 pilots. Joe has been exonerated, but perhaps there is more to the story, especially when Ann’s brother George arrives after visiting their incarcerated father with a different take on what happened on the day the faulty parts were shipped out.

“The play has a lot of humor in it, but at its core it’s a story of how we all struggle to maintain  relationships even in the presence of secrets, lies, and rationalizations,” said Spradlin. “In greater or lesser degrees, each audience member will find a point of connection to their own experiences.”

Tickets for ‘All My Sons’ are available through the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199 or online at www.clcperformingarts.com The show is sponsored by the LaVonne Danzl Family. The entire season is made possible in part by a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support Grant, thanks to a legislative  appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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