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28.9.10

All My Sons

by Arthur Miller

This was a welcome entertainment after the depression brought on by Death of a Salesman. That's not to say that this is a simple, happy play. By no means, friend. It is dramatic and the stakes are very high throughout.. there are moments of lightness, however, and characters filled with joy.

Even though it was written in the '40s, history repeats itself and the themes are relevant again. There are men and women all over the world who are waiting for their lover to return from the war, just as Ann did. There are parents who are in denial of their child's disappearance. There are people who will profit from our current wars and there are those who will suffer. These people are as real today as they were during Miller's time.

The Keller family bears many burdens, not the least of which is the criminal decision that Joe made to send off defective airplane parts to the soldiers fighting for their country. He managed to place blame elsewhere and avoid jail but his reputation was sorely damaged, as the whole town knows he's guilty. Perhaps only Chris, his son, believes him to be innocent. My heart goes out to Chris - an optimistic man, left in the shadow of his missing brother, Larry. Chris is in love with "Larry's girl" Ann but feels he cannot act on it:
I don't know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer.
Chris is a good man, but he wants to be happy and he invites Ann to his home to propose to her. His mother is completely against the idea - she believes that Larry is still alive. Ann is overjoyed and seems to have been waiting for Chris to ask her for a long while. Do we get a happy ending? *SPOILER ALERT* Well.... yes and no. Chris' world is shattered when he realizes that his father is guilty. He is destroyed and doesn't know what to do:
What? Do I raise the dead when I put him behind bars? Then what'll I do it for? We used to shoot a man who acted like a dog, but honor was real there, you were protecting something. But here? This is the land of the great big dogs, you don't love a man here, you eat him! That's the principle; the only one we live by - it just happened to kill a few people this time, that's all. The world's that way, how can I take it out on him? What sense does that make? This is a zoo, a zoo!
The most heartbreaking line was when Chris confronts his father:
I know you're no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.
The moment when a child sees his parent as a person is a true loss of innocence. In a way it is a bridge we must all cross into adulthood but it can be difficult. Chris wants to believe the best in people and he tells his mother:
You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it. 
I take this line away with me as something we should all remember. Whatever you believe in, our world will only be as good as we make it - the energy you put in will be the energy you get out. I choose to live today with love and a positive spirit.

Tomorrow's Play: Plenty by David Hare

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