The Bay City Players Tackle the Moral Intricacies of Arthur Miller\'s \'All My Sons\'

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 742   By: Robert E Martin

23rd February, 2012     0

'All My Sons' is a 1947 play by the great American playwright, Arthur Miller; and true to form for most of Miller's plays, operates on the surface as both a compelling drama concerning morality and the choices that people make in life, while it also functions as a revelatory prism on contemporary American culture, which makes it enduring and timeless.
Miller wrote All My Sons after his first play had failed on Broadway and saw this work as a final attempt at writing a commercially successful production, vowing to "find some other line of work" if the play did not find an audience.  It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and was twice adapted for film in 1948 and 1897. The Bay City Players will be presenting this challenging production from March 2-4 and March 8-11th
Based upon a true story, which Miller's then mother-in-law pointed out in an Ohio newspaper, All My Sons is the tale of two partners in a business where one is forced to take moral and legal responsibility for the other. Joe Keller, the chief character, is a man who loves his family above all else and has sacrificed everything in order to make them prosperous. As the manufacturer of parts used in tanks during the 2nd World War, Joe knowingly shipped out defective parts that suffered mechanical failures, which led to the death of many soldiers. Consequently, in this work Miller examines the morality of the man who places his narrow self-interest for his immediate family above his wider responsibility to the men who rely on the integrity of his work.
Indeed, Miller's criticism of the 'American Dream', which forms the core of this production, was one reason why Miller was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s, when America was gripped by anti-communist hysteria.  But being the true artist that he is, Miller also mirrors his characters around Greek Tragedy where the protagonist commits an offense that returns to haunt him, sometimes many years later.
For Director Joanne Berry, this is the second Miller play that she's directed; and she has also performed in 'The Crucible.'  "Arthur Miller is one of my favorite playwrights because I am drawn to his examination of personal integrity and the moral choices that must be made by people who are often in desperate situations," she explains. "The idea of taking personal responsibility for our actions and the consequences of those actions is the core idea in this play."
Many times there are numerous narrative strands that permeate Miller's work and operate on different levels, so is it difficult to translate these complexities to the stage?  "There are a couple major threads in the plot," continues Berry. "One begins with the arrival of Ann who has been engaged to Chris's brother who was listed as MIA. Chris has been writing to her and they plan to marry, but the major complication is that Joe's wife, Kate, clings to the belief that Larry is still alive, so Chris and Ann have to convince Kate that Larry is indeed dead."
"The other strong plot line begins when George, Ann's brother, tries to find out what happened at the factory. Their father is in prison because Joe placed the blame on him as his business partner. Later, Chris also tries to find the truth and is devastated when he learns it. He returns from service a changed man and says the world has changed and there is no meaning in it, but he still believes in the integrity of his father. The final crushing devastation occurs when he realizes his hero, his father, is actually responsible for the deaths of those pilots."
For the Bay City Players production, veteran actors Dale Bill and Debra Monroe play Joe and Kate Keller. Andy Hanson of Bay City plays Chris Keller and is new to the Bay City Players' stage, as is Kate Serafolean of Midland who plays Ann. Jim Steward of Midland portrays Dr. Jim Bayless and also serves as assistant Director. Amanda Glashauser of Bay City, as Sue Bayless, Terese Mauch of Bay City, and Cameron Pichan of Pinconning, both seen on the Players' stage earlier this year, rounds out the cast. Appearing as George is Trevor Keyes and Kyle Pichon of Pinconning makes his debut as Bert, a neighborhood kid.
Bay City Players are to be applauded for tackling this cogent, challenging work, which today is more relevant than ever as we struggle harder as a society to figure out what the parameters of personal responsibility are; split as we are politically over ideas related to the goals of the individual vs. the good of the community; and asking: are we only beholden to our own interests and connected to no one but whoever is in our own backyard, or do we play a part in a larger web of responsibility?

Bay City Players presents 'All My Son's by Arthur Miller from March 2-4 and March 8-11th.  The box office opens February 27th. Go to for box office hours, ticket prices and show times or phone 989-893-5555. Bay City Players is located at 1214 Columbus Avenue in Bay City. 


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