My Variety Review: Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons' With Annette Bening, Tracy Letts
Don’t be fooled by the placid backyard setting, neighborly small talk and father-son joviality at the start of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s blistering revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. There are plenty of secrets, resentments and disillusionments ahead, poised to rip this sunny Middle Americana facade to shreds.
The 1947 play that was Miller’s first big success (and his warm-up to “Death of a Salesman”) can sometimes feel like an Ibsen/Odets homage, with its heavy hand on symbols, speechifying and mechanical plotting. But it still packs a wallop all its own, especially in this wonderfully cast, honestly staged and beautifully presented production. It even makes you rethink one of the lead characters in a way that makes the play’s ending even more harrowing.
It’s the kind of play that always feels relevant — when are works decrying greed and corruption not relevant? — but Miller’s tale of ethical malfeasance, moral bankruptcy and enabling behavior — not to mention faulty airplane parts, eerily echoed in today’s headlines — has an especially deep sting now.
Director Jack O’Brien, who came aboard after Gregory Mosher left the production over a casting clash with the Miller estate, staged a production for PBS 32 years ago starring James Whitmore and Michael Learned. Here he returns to the material with leading actors who bring nuanced lives and layers to these familial archetypes: the devoted father, the protective mother, the dutiful son. But the deceits and illusions in this expedient post-WWII America are barely holding them all together, and soon enough all of them will be struck down as furiously as the play’s foreshadowing winds.