The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title All My Sons
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show June 4 - July 13, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

People who know American theater know Arthur Miller as the author of “Death of a Salesman” and perhaps “The Crucible.” Many fans of these plays don’t know that Miller has a third great play, “All My Sons,” which is now playing in an electrifying production at Sutter Street Theatre.

Like “Death of a Salesman,” “All My Sons” is about a family in which the truth is never told and everyone is deceiving himself or herself about what is going on. Set in 1946, the play focuses on Joe Keller, performed with conviction by Stephen Kauffman, the owner of a machine shop which produced airplane parts for the military during World War II. He and his partner were accused of knowingly selling the government defective cylinder heads which resulted in the deaths of 21 pilots. Joe was acquitted but his partner, who signed off on the parts, was convicted and is serving prison time.

Joe had two sons. The older, Larry, was a pilot reported missing in action three years before. Joe’s wife Kate, played with visible tension by Lee Marie Kelly, refuses to admit Larry is dead.  Joe’ younger son Chris (Tim Yancy) has returned from the war and has become his father’s business partner. Chris has been writing to Larry’s girlfriend Ann (Amy Williams), who knows Larry is dead, for over two years, and through this correspondence she and Chris have fallen in love. Ann, the daughter of Joe’s former partner, arrives for a visit expecting Chris to propose. Family tension is stoked by her arrival because Chris’s mother still thinks Ann is “Larry’s girl” and since she believes Larry is still alive, cannot allow Chris to marry her.

The entire action of the play takes place over the course of one day—the day Ann arrives and everyone is forced to face the truth of what has been hidden or denied for three years. The setting is the porch and back yard of the Kellers’ home, a beautiful set created by Mike Jimena. It is a busy day in that back yard, with the arrival not only of Ann but of Ann’s brother George (Ross Branch), who has just visited their father in prison and has come away convinced of his innocence and Joe’s guilt. Many neighbors also drop in for a visit, each with his or her opinion of the events in the Kellers’ past.

Tension builds in the first act, setting up the revelations which bring the play to its devastating conclusion in act two. Directed with great skill by Janelle Kauffman, the smooth ensemble acting pulls the audience into this family tragedy. We are allowed gradually to see through the subterfuges and lies and know that the truth must finally come out. Kauffman, with her husband Stephen (Joe) head up “Give Us A Hand Productions,” which teams with Sutter Street for one or two shows each season. Having seen three of their productions now, I know that a show in their hands is bound to be great theater, and this show is no exception.

This is a show for lovers of serious stage drama. The combination of Arthur Miller, one of America’s greatest dramatists, and the skillful partnership of Sutter Street Theatre and Give Us A Hand Productions guarantees a memorable evening of theater at its best.

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