Washingtonian: All My Sons

Any long and bruising campaign season relies on the concept of the American Dream, baiting the nation with both the glow of its promise and the threat of its fiery demise. Arthur Miller’s talent for carefully wielding the power of those same extremes in his works was originally refined in All My Sons, the playwright’s first commercial success and winner of the Drama Critics’ Award for Best New Play in 1947. Now playing on the Keegan Theatre’s Church Street stage, director Susan Marie Rhea’s production of Sons wisely taps the weighty (and timely) disillusionment of a country at a crossroads and uses it as a backdrop for Miller’s go-to messages of raw ambition, disappointment, guilt, and forgiveness…

As Chris, [Kevin] Hasser is a standout. The character’s loyalty and optimistic demeanor belie the darker nuances needed to make his evolution believable, and Hasser’s subtle choices achieve that balance….[Sheri] Herren’s stubborn and haunted Kate shines in the scenes that ask the most of her dramatically….and a gut-wrenching Bradley Foster Smith owning his limited stage time as Annie’s distraught brother George.

The men onstage handle the particularly masculine American pressure of social expectation versus the debilitating weight of an often disappointing reality—a struggle Miller also explored in later works such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible­—admirably. Before the world addressed what we would now call PTSD, when men were expected to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of battles overseas or within their own consciences, all that pent-up emotion took a definitive toll. And it’s capturing that quietly tortured and sometimes explosive mentality that make Miller’s script so arresting. This interpretation grasps those qualities with a largely steady hand, and it pays off. And in a deeply divided climate that’s hammered what is expected of us as Americans into a sometimes petty oblivion, it’s a fitting reminder of the dangerous consequences of those pressures that can linger for years to come.