Solid acting supports credible take on ‘All My Sons,’ Arthur Miller’s tale of wartime guilt and greed

All My Sons
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Through April 17
Carpenter Square Theatre
Arena Theatre, Stage Center
400 W. Sheridan
http://www.carpentersquare.com
232-6500
$18, $15 seniors, students and military

Arthur Miller’s 1947 drama “All My Sons” concerns greed, war profiteering and the perversion of truth in a fictional, but fact-inspired case during World War II. Isn’t it nice that we don’t have to deal with such evils these days?

Carpenter Square Theatre presents a credible, if not overly compelling, production of “Sons.” Although uneven, it features some fine acting.

Joe Keller and his business partner, Steve Deever, unintentionally manufactured a batch of defective cylinder heads for the P-40 warplane, resulting in failed engines and crashes that killed 21 pilots. It was a headline-grabbing scandal, and during the action of the play, Deever is in prison.

Keller was away from the factory the day the cylinder heads were made, and at trial, he convinced the court that Deever, alone and knowingly, released the ill-fated products for installation. Now, Keller’s son, Chris, has brought home Deever’s daughter, Ann, with the intention of marrying her. The families were longtime friends and neighbors, but this sudden betrothal of Chris and Ann is still highly unexpected.

Directed by Michael Payne, the production seems leaden much of the time, but not when Hal Kohlman, who plays Joe Keller, is onstage. One of our top-notch actors, he gives a masterful performance.

Keller is an extraordinarily multidimensional character. Miller’s writing and Kohlman’s performance make him sympathetic … for a moment. Keller has built up his company through sheer effort and force of personality “” “guts,” as he puts it. With only one year of night school, he resents the former military officers and college men who are ubiquitous after the war. Keller is essentially an honest man caught up in the wartime industrial frenzy, but just try telling that to the families of the 21 pilots who died because his company cut corners in producing the cylinder heads.

Kohlman’s slightly stooped shoulders and paunch reflect the great weight Keller has born. He nails the character’s bluster and vulnerability, sometimes in the same scene. Kohlman anchors a production that goes wobbly at times.

The production offers other solid performances. Rhonda Clark plays Kate, Joe’s highly conflicted wife, who embodies both denial and the practicality needed to protect her family. Greg Eskridge is excellent as the Kellers’ neighbor, and Addison Miller gives a strong performance as George Deever, Steve’s son.

Additionally, Emily Jackson plays Ann, and Brett Rottmayer seems to grow into the role of Chris.“”Larry Laneer

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