Arthur Miller’s classic “All My Sons” is onstage at Actors Theatre of San Francisco in an insightful production that builds, and illuminates, the playwright’s primary theme of the importance of taking personal responsibility in the face of social and family pressure.
The show represents a terrific opportunity to see a work by a great American dramatist whose every word rings true throughout a straightforward and elegant presentation.
Director Joyce Henderson keeps the actors beautifully on task — playing a post World War II-era family (of course dysfunctional) — as their world comes crashing down. It happens as each and all of the members seriously begin to come to terms with their complex individual and combined histories.
Joe Keller, who worked in a factory that knowingly shipped faulty parts resulting in soldiers’ deaths, has moved on from the tragedy. His partner was the one who took the blame for the breach. He’s still running his business, grooming his son Chris to take over.
But Chris isn’t sure about that. He’s ready to start a new life with his sweetheart Ann, the ex-girlfriend of his brother Larry, who never made it home from the war. Ann is estranged from her father, who worked with Joe and was incarcerated. Chris’ mother Kate is the only Keller who refuses to accept that Larry’s dead.
While the circumstances sound like a soap opera, the play is anything but that. Set in the confines of the Kellers’ backyard over the course of a day, the drama realistically, and powerfully, unfolds.
Performers in the closely knit ensemble, who clearly have an affinity for acclaimed American dramas, are uniformly strong, relying on a quiet gravity that works well in the intimate theater on Bush Street.
With appealing nuance, Randy Hurst sets the show’s tone as Joe, the patriarch who cheerily jaws with visiting neighbors and placates his wife and son, all the while denying a reality that he ultimately can’t overcome.
Nicholas Russell is equally effective as the conflicted Chris, who clearly has tried to be “a good son” but is filled with complicated thoughts and emotions stemming from his love for Ann versus that for his parents and brother, and his need to “do the right thing.”
Nahry Tak plays Ann, a woman whose world changes, with a delicate strength.
Rounding out the excellent cast is Henderson as mother Kate, who wears her denial on her sleeve. Her pain, and that of a family in turmoil, fuel Miller’s morality play, an intense and moving story that remains relevant in the 21st century.
Where: Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes June 12
Tickets: $15 to $38