Intrepid Shakespeare Company has launched its fifth season in impressive fashion, staging a faultless production of Arthur Miller’s fiercely intense family drama All My Sons. This is Intrepid’s third go-round with Miller, an expressed favorite of Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox: Previously, the Encinitas-based company staged The Crucible as well as Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. With this current production, Yael-Cox and a formidable cast evince all of Miller’s precise language and cogent reflection on not only the inexorable binds of family but the price of culpability, war and the so-called American Dream as it was post –WWII.
The sons of All My Sons are not merely Joe and Kate Keller’s Chris (Brian Mackey) and missing in action/presumed dead Larry. They are all the boys who fought the brave fight overseas in and in particular 21 American pilots who died because of defective parts in their airplanes. Joe (Tom Stephenson, quietly imploding) and his partner, Steve Deever, had shipped the defective parts and were subsequently jailed. Joe was exonerated and freed, while Steve remained behind bars. At home, Kate (an exceptionally moving Savvy Scopelleti) clings to the belief that son Larry is still alive, while Chris (Brian Mackey) shyly, but with resolve, woos lovely Ann Deever (Jacque Wilke), who happens to be not only incarcerated Steve Deever’s estranged daughter but Larry’s former sweetheart.
In playwright Miller’s own words, “Betrayal is the only truth that sticks,” but All My Sons is, thematically, not that simple. At stake in the seemingly peaceful back yard behind the Kellers’ quaint Midwest home is the very nature of faith: in oneself, in the ones you love, in what dreams may come and those that will wither away. With its pervading tension and emotionally horrifying twists, All My Sons is tough medicine to swallow for its tormented families, and not so easy on an audience either. But Yael-Cox’s fluid direction and performances with the power of Scopeletti’s, Stephenson’s, Mackey’s and Wilke’s demonstrate how gripping a tragic story can be told.
The American Dream was, and is, elusive and fraught with good intentions gone astray.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.