"The audience gasped when they should have, and I tasted that power which is reserved, I imagine, for playwrights, which is to know that by one's invention a mass of strangers has been publicly transfixed." This is what playwright Arthur Miller said about the Broadway opening of his first Tony Award-winning play, "All My Sons," back in 1947. It might also have described the opening night of Timeline Theatre's production of the show. Who would expect a 62-year old play to have this kind of emotional impact?
This time-honored American drama will be familiar to anyone forced to read it in high school. But plays are meant to be seen, heard and experienced with an audience, and Timeline's production breathes so much new life into this classic that, given the events of the past eight years, the play almost seems contemporary.
Miller's writing pays homage to those ancient Greek tragedies in which the protagonist has unknowingly committed an offense that returns years later to haunt him. Within a 24-hour time period, he will learn of the offense, suffer from its repercussions and often be punished or even die by the final curtain. The gods show that they are just and moral order is restored to the universe. Here Miller gives us Joe Keller, an ordinary, hardworking, good-natured man who is liked by everyone. But Joe has a flaw that has caused him to act wrongly years ago and he now must accept the responsibility. Joe's factory, in his desire to achieve the American Dream, has knowingly manufactured and sold defective airplane parts that have resulted in the deaths of 21 American pilots during WWII. This explosive secret, coupled with the family's struggle to accept the death of their eldest son (not to mention their younger son's desire to marry his late brother's fiancÚ) turn Joe's American Dream into an American nightmare.
Three factors contribute to director Kimberly Senior's gut-wrenching production. The first is an attention to detail, from Jack Magaw's naturalistic set to Lindsey Pate's authentic period costuming. The second are the realistic pauses, silences and unspoken moments that are often stronger than words and actions. And the third is the magical chemistry created between this director and cast. It would be wrong to single out any one performance because each works so strongly as an ensemble. This production is yet another jewel in Timeline's crown of recent achievements and should not be missed.