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All My Sons: Universal Themes and American Theatre

Posted by Ramesh on September 05, 2013 in The REP

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All My Sons: Universal Themes and American Theatre

The importance of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons to theatre in the United States and worldwide cannot be ignored. When Miller began writing this play – the inspiration for Joe Keller’s crime came from a true story that occurred during World War II – his career as a playwright was in doubt. His first and only play produced on Broadway, The Man Who Had All the Luck, had been a failure, lasting only four performances in November 1944.

All My Sons changed all that. It opened at the Coronet Theatre in New York City on Jan. 29, 1947, ran for more than 300 performances, and became Miller’s first commercial success. Directed by Elia Kazan, to whom the play is dedicated, the production starred Ed Begley as Joe Keller, Beth Merrill as Kate Keller, Arthur Kennedy as Chris Keller, Lois Wheeler as Ann Deever, and Karl Malden as George Deever. It won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, beating Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, and two Tony Awards for Best Author and Best Direction of a Play.

Since then, All My Sons has been a staple of American theatre. It was revived on Broadway in 1987, starring Richard Kiley, Joyce Ebert, Jamey Sheridan and Jayne Atkinson, and, again, in 2008, with John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes, in her Broadway debut. All My Sons also was revived at London’s West End in 2010 with actors David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker.

There’s little doubt as to the universal appeal of All My Sons. Its themes resonate with audiences and cultures around the world. A 2011 production at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles featured a multi-racial cast. That same year, the National Academy of Performing Arts Repertory Theater in Karachi, Pakistan, adapted the play in Urdu. Titled Jo Chalay Tau Jaan Sae Guzar Gaye, it centered on a construction company owner who builds a high-rise that collapses during an earthquake, killing dozens of people.

All My Sons was also adapted twice for the screen. The first film, in 1948, starred Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster. The second, in 1987, was a made-for-TV film starring James Whitmore, Aidan Quinn and Joan Allen.

We're thrilled to open our 2013-2014 REP season with one of Arthur Miller's finest works and to have Distingushed Master Artist in Residence, Robert A. Miller at the helm, directing once again. 

All My Sons: Joe and Kate Embrace | Phillip Winters, Penelope Lindblom | (C) Jeff Swenson
 

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