The current run of “All My Sons” at the Arvada Center is a faithful adaptation of Arthur Miller’s tale of a warprofitier whose actions are finally catching up with him. Miller’s keen sense of dialogue and pace are on display in this faithful production at the center’s black box theater.
The center has some of the area’s best actors in their repertory theater’s stable. And the talent is given a chance to rely sink their teeth into the story of war profiteer Joe Keller and his family in post World War II. Keller is a classic Miller character, a flawed man so obsessed with the idea of the American dream that it corrupts everything around him.
In this instance, it is Keller’s obsession with leaving his family the legacy of a thriving and successful business that blinds him to the destructive path he has put everyone on with his lies. But the entire cast of Miller’s story is here to show the destructive nature of believing a lie because a truth is too terrible to imagine.
It could be tempting to think the themes from a play first performed more than 70 years ago wouldn’t age well when viewed through a modern perspective. But Miller’s criticisms of the American dream are still relevant today. In a country obsessed with wealth and the artificial importance that gives, Miller’s distaste for the rat race and being considered successful still rings true like it did in 1947.
Emma Messenger plays Kate, the matriarch of the Keller family, obsessed with the idea that one of her son’s survived the war and will miraculously appear out of thin air. Messenger, as she often is, is a highlight of this show. As an actress, Messenger has the ability to overpower any scene with her delivery and presence on stage. But here, she opts rightly instead to use that skill sparingly, only allowing her full power out when her character starts to come apart at the seams.
Lance Rasmussen excels as Chris, Kate and Joe’s one son to survive the war. The audience has to buy into the emotional journey Chris travels throughout the play for the story’s emotional gut punch to land in the end. And Rasmussen doesn’t rush his character’s transformation from idealistic fighter to disillusioned cynic, instead giving the audience a perfect interpretation of a man slowly coming to terms with the evil he’s refused to see in front of him.
The catalyst for the destruction of the Keller family’s long lived lie is George Deever, played with conviction by Geoffrey Kent. He’s only on stage for one scene but Kent’s presence is felt long after he’s left the stage. Regina Fernandez, playing George’s sister Ann, is wonderful as a woman torn between the man she loves and the realization the lie the Keller’s have told has destroyed her life.
It should be noted that understudy Greg Ungar played the part of Joe Keller in the show that was reviewed. While Ungar might not be the permanent actor bringing Joe to life, know that his performance was both heartbreaking and infuriating in the best sense possible.
Four out of five stars
“All My Sons” by the Arvada Center’s Black Box Repertory Company
Playing now through May 3. Tickets start at $45. For more information, visit arvadacenter.org/all-my-sons.