Los Angeles Theater Review: ALL MY SONS (Ruskin Group in Santa Monica)

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by Tony Frankel on August 22, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles


Emmanuel Ax brought new life to Brahms Concerto No. 2 last week at the Hollywood Bowl. Should you then refuse to see the piece with another pianist? Of course not. Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, which received an astounding rendering recently at the Raven, deserves to be seen in the revival currently on the boards at The Ruskin Group Theatre. It comes highly recommended, even though there may not be any earth-shattering or ground-breaking innovations (save a quick opening moment). Even if you’ve seen this classic play before, you would do well to go back; it still packs a punch.

All My Sons - Ruskin Theatre

Miller’s skills as a playwright shine through under Edward Edwards’ skillful direction. Miller’s craftsmanship remains a miracle; he never throws in exposition arbitrarily. He creates everyday philosophers and allows the actors to bring on the subtext. The WWII-era story involves Joe Keller (Paul Linke), who has tried to bury a shocking indiscretion regarding his involvement with some faulty munitions that were produced at his factory. When Ann (charming Austin Highsmith) returns to town to marry Joe’s son, Chris (Dominic Comperatore), she brings with her the reminder that her father, Joe’s former employee, is serving a prison term for that very indiscretion. Chris’ mom, Kate (Catherine Telford) remains haunted by the disappearance of her second son, Larry, when he was fighting overseas (at one time, Ann had been Larry’s fiancée).

All My Sons - Ruskin Theatre

Instead of veering into soap opera, the tale becomes more gripping when neighbors pop in and out, intermingling opinions and judgments like a Greek Chorus. The casting may not be pitch-perfect, but each actor gives a lovely performance. Some performances have nuances that seem better suited to the cinema, but they work in this tiny space. Mr. Comperatore, as Chris, chooses to not wear his heart on his sleeve; at first, it seemed an odd choice, but this makes his Act Two discoveries all the more shattering. As Ann’s brother, George, Maury Sterling perfectly captures the dichotomy between his lust for revenge and the need to belong to a family. The skillful Miss Telford allows Kate to be both passive-aggressive and strong, playing against the weakness that years of secrets can create like a cancer – even though her transitions from denial to reality still seem a bit jarring. We feel terrible for George when it becomes apparent that he missed his chance with glowing and pretty Katie Parker (Lydia), the Keller’s perky neighbor. Shae Kennedy (Sue, another neighbor) is riveting in her confrontational scene with Ann.

Joe is the antagonist of the play. Although Paul Linke fits the part amazingly well, he misses out on distinct choices. How would all those years of guilt affect his posture or attitudes? He comes off like the simple Everyman (indeed, the script refers to his lack of education), but this role requires a stratum of psychological suffering, peaking through the Father Knows Best exterior.

All in all, though, it was a skilled cast in a brilliant play. As with Brahms, one could disagree about the way a particular instrument is played, but if the symphony shines, and it really shines with All My Sons at Ruskin, what more could you ask?

photos by Agnes Magyari

All My Sons
Ruskin Group
3000 Airport Avenue in Santa Monica
ends on October 2, 2010
for tickets, call 310.397.3244 or visit Ruskin

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