ALL MY SONS (2011-2012)
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Arthur Miller's

directed by Cameron Watson

Due to the overwhelming response from both critics and audiences, for the first time in Matrix Theatre Company's illustrious 30-year history, we are bringing a production back!

The entire critically-acclaimed cast will return for the full run.

February 17 - March 18
Only 15 performances!!

Fri - Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm
Click here for tickets!
or call 323-852-1445

Best Ensemble

- WINNER, L.A. Drama
Critics Circle Award:

Best Actress (Anne Gee Byrd)

Non-traditionally cast
sheds new light on Arthur Miller’s classic

Matrix Theatre presents third in a series
of plays examining race in America


LOS ANGELES, CA – September 20, 2011 – A multi-ethnic production sheds new light on Arthur Miller’s powerful All My Sons, with previews beginning October 13 and the opening set for October 22 at the Matrix Theatre.

Miller’s gripping tale of corporate greed versus social responsibility remains as electrifying today as when first presented in 1947, but producer Joseph Stern and director Cameron Watson have upped the ante, presenting this non-traditionally cast version as the third play in a trilogy examining race in America through the lens of different playwrights. 

In All My Sons, Joe Keller and Steve Deever, partners in a machine shop during World War II, knowingly turned out defective airplane parts that caused the deaths of many men. Now, the past has come back to haunt their families.

Stern emphasizes that “we’re not re-setting the play in another time or place, or deconstructing it, but when audiences see this extraordinary cast, the issues inherent in Miller's play are experienced in a fresh, expanded cultural context.”

The casting process was far from color blind. “We’ve cast this play in a very deliberate way,” he explains. “The Kellers are a mixed race familyJoe Keller is black (Alex Morris), Kate Keller is white (Anne Gee Byrd), and son Chris is bi-racial (A.K. Murtadha). The Deevers are Asian with Linda Park as Ann Deever and James Hiroyuki Liao as George. Meanwhile, the neighbor families, the Baylisses (Anita Barone and Taylor Nichols) and the Lubeys (Maritxell Carrero and Armand Vasquez) are white and Latino respectively.

In 2009, Stern presented Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly, offering black and white audiences the chance to see upper-middle class African American characters seldom seen in the theater, where work often focuses on working class or “ghetto” life. Stick Fly went on to win the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award for production, as well as LA Weekly, Back Stage and Ovation awards for writing and ensemble.

In 2010, Neighbors, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, was an incisive study of the history of racism in America, embodied by an interracial middle class couple, their bi-racial daughter and a family of black minstrels in blackface. The controversial production aimed to dispel stereotypical perceptions of black sexuality, behavior and culture. Neighbors was the recipient of multiple LADCC and Back Stage awards, and has just been nominated for four Ovations, including Best Play. The play will open later this month at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, directed by Nataki Garrett, who directed the Matrix production

Now, in 2011, The Matrix Theatre Company presents All My Sons, the American classic about post-war America and its effect on two families and their neighbors, breaking down expectations of casting conditioned into American audiences of all backgrounds.

“Taken together,” says Stern, “these three plays are an attempt to start a dialogue that may make some uncomfortable, but will ultimately emerge as a healing act for both audiences and artists. The Matrix will continue to explore issues of race in the future.”

Set design for All My Sons is by John Iacovelli; lighting design is by Brian Gale; costume design is by Marcy Froehlich; properties design is by Chuck Olsen; casting is by Jami Rudofsky; production stage manager is Gil Tordjman; and the managing director is Allain Rochel.

Under the leadership of producer Joseph Stern, The Matrix Theatre Company endeavors to build a creative environment by exploring a variety of theatrical genres and styles that constantly challenges both actor and audience. This innovative technique has been critically acclaimed and rewardedincluding numerous Ovation, L.A. Weekly, Drama-Logue and Backstage Garland Awards, and a total of 41 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards - the largest number of LADCC Awards garnered by any intimate theater in Los Angeles. The Matrix Theatre Company has been honored by the LADCC with consecutive Outstanding Production awards for Stick Fly (2009); The Tavern (1993), The Seagull (1994) and The Homecoming (1995), and Betrayal (1984); Outstanding Ensemble for Mad Forest (1996); and with four LADCC awards for The Water Children (1998). The Birthday Party (2001) was named Best Revival Production by the L.A. Weekly and received numerous nominations and awards, including five LADCC nominations, among others.



Stern's Multi-Culti Look for ALL MY SONS at the Matrix
by Julio Martinez

Joseph Stern is making himself comfortable on a deck chair that’s part of the backyard patio set taking up almost all of Matrix Theatre Company’s ample stage area. On October 22, Stern’s company is presenting “not just another production” of Arthur Miller’s 1947 American tragedy, All My Sons, directed by Cameron Watson. “The cast is ethnically mixed and we cast the play specifically that way,” Stern explains.

“The main protagonist Joe Keller (Alex Morris) is black and his wife Kate (Anne Gee Byrd) is white. Their son Chris (A.K. Murtadha) is biracial. The adult children of Joe’s former business partner, Ann Deever (Linda Park) and her brother George (James Hiroyuki Liao) are Asian. The neighboring families, the Baylisses (Anita Barone and Taylor Nichols) and the Lubeys (Maritxell Carrero and Armand Vasquez) are white and Latino, respectively.”

After establishing himself as a successful television executive, Stern founded the Matrix in 1977, intent on producing stage works that adhered to classical standards. In a July 1979 Drama-Logue interview, he affirmed his mandate “…that the proper actors are cast for each part, that the actors are faithful to the words. That everything be accurate and true to character, true to period.” Under the leadership of Stern, Matrix has garnered a total of of 41 LA Drama Critics Circle Awards.

About four years ago, Stern decided to take a different approach. “After 30 years of classical work, I decided to change my programming here, to embrace what I felt was the most important theme in our lives. I wrote my company members and asked the questions: When you act in a play in Los Angeles and look out at the audience, do you see many faces of color out there? And on a daily basis, how many people do you interact with that are people of color? Based on the responses I got and my own personal feelings, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I had seen Yellowman [Dael Orlandersmith's play in which the characters are African American] at the Fountain Theatre [in 2005], and I wanted the kind of mixed audiences that were seeing that play to come to the Matrix.

“I talked to a lot of people, met artists of many different ethnicities. It took me a couple of years to figure out what I was going to do. I finally decided to do a three-play season. I just didn’t know at the time it would take me three years to pull it off. I had this ideal in my head and I was determined to keep searching until I had the works I wanted to present on this stage.”

In 2009, Stern presented Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond, focusing on upper-class African American characters seldom seen in the theater. Its acting ensemble won an Ovation Award, and the production also garnered LA Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and Back Stage Awards. In 2010, the Matrix premiered Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Neighbors, a study of racism in America, personified by an interracial middle class couple, their bi-racial daughter and a family of black minstrels in blackface who move next door. This work has been nominated for four 2011 Ovations, including Best Play in an Intimate Theater. Neighbors recently opened at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, helmed by Nataki Garrett who also staged the Matrix production. All My Sons is the third play in Stern’s trilogy.

“I am happy now this has taken this long to pull off,” Stern affirms. “I wanted this to be an accumulative experience for the audience. Stick Fly and Neighbors were specifically about the black experience, looked at from varying perspectives. Then I wanted to take an American classic and cast it non-traditionally — but not just throw it up against the wall and cast whatever color actor did the best audition.” He chose All My Sons because it “was perfect for multi-ethnic casting, allowing for a representation of the different ethnicities that would be so common in a neighborhood today.”

Stern had the ethnic assignments figured out before the production was cast. “I knew exactly how I wanted to cast each role. I knew Joe was going to be black, his wife white and his son, biracial. I wanted the fiancé and brother to be Asian, which I knew would be the most controversial casting, because of the play’s proximity to World War II. I also wanted the neighboring families to be white and Latino, which is common in today’s Los Angeles but not in the 1947 Midwest.”

Stern had seen one of the actors, Alex Morris, in the play Motor Trade at Rogue Machine (March 2011). “He has such a wonderful working-class presence as Joe. He brings this earthiness to the role, quite believable as someone who clawed his way up to prominence during the Depression, but still exudes the deep-rooted persona of a laborer.” Anne Gee Byrd, who plays Joe’s wife, also scored a hit at Rogue Machine with Joel Drake Johnson’s award-winning Four Places (April 2010). She is also a 2011 Ovation nominee for her featured role in the Antaeus Theatre production of The Autumn Garden.

For director Cameron Watson, who has a long history of involvement with the plays of another American theatrical icon, Horton Foote, this is his first outing with an Arthur Miller play. He admits that one of the most emotionally involving aspects of the production was the casting process. “I heard from many of the actors who came in to audition that they were in awe because they never dreamed they’d ever be asked to read for one of these classic Americana roles.

“There were Asian American actresses who quite emotionally expressed how deeply affected they were that they had a chance to audition to play Ann Deever in Arthur Miller’s play. And after the play was cast, that excitement of discovery carried right through into the rehearsal process. It was a very fresh opportunity for most of these actors.

“Because these actors are all so good, I found myself discovering the play right along with them. It has been an intricate and delicate exploratory process. We’ve had these great revelations and epiphanies together. I really believe that since most of the actors are working with material they never had a chance to do in their careers before, maybe it has opened up some things that would not have happened with a traditional all-Caucasian cast.”

During the rehearsal process Watson has come to believe he is seeing and listening to the people Arthur Miller created. He has no doubt audiences will believe it as well. “The way this family looks, and the way the neighborhood looks, takes care of itself the minute you see everybody. This is who these people are and this is how the yard looks at this point in time. Nothing needs to be layered on to the text that’s not there. The actors understand they just need to tell this story that has been so beautifully scripted by Miller. I can’t wait until we get an audience in here.”


by Julio Martinez

THE THING IS… “To be able to audition for a role like this just doesn’t happen to someone like me. Being a minority, I could only come across this character in drama school or acting class. I never would have thought I’d be doing this on a professional stage out in the real world. It was not only an amazing experience to be able to audition; but actually to be able to explore this play, this character and to share it with the public was like entering a whole new world. I can’t help being an Asian American girl. That comes with me the second I step on stage. Allowing that to happen while inhabiting this role and moving forward within the ensemble feels so natural. I am this character. Now my mind is more open to the possibilities. I am doing a classic all-American Arthur Miller play. How about Tennessee Williams next? I’m ready.” – Korean American thesp Linda Park portrays Ann Deever in the Matrix Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s 1947 Pulitzer and Tony winning All My Sons


BACKSTAGE - Critic's Pick!

Review by Melinda Schupmann

Producer Joseph Stern concludes his three-year trilogy ("Stick Fly," Neighbors") with Arthur Miller's classic tale of misguided greed and lies that fracture the lives of a family and its friends and neighbors. Deliberately cast with multiethnic actors, this production gets its heft from the remarkably fine portrayals by all onstage.

The Keller family comprises black father Joe (Alex Morris), white mother Kate (Anne Gee Byrd), and mixed-race son Chris (A.K. Murtadha). Asian brother and sister Ann (Linda Park) and George Deever (James Hiroyuki Liao) were former neighbors and grew up with Chris and his deceased brother, Larry. Their father, Joe's former partner, is in prison for selling defective airplane parts that killed 21 soldiers. Other neighbors are Dr. Jim (Taylor Nichols) and Sue Bayliss (Anita Barone), who are white, and Frank (Armand Vasquez) and Lydia Lubey (Maritxell Carrero), who are Latino.

Joe's lie that he was only marginally involved in the deaths has given him a reduced prison sentence, but many suspect he had complicity in the crime. This, then, becomes the crux of the tragedy of an average man with a fatal flaw.

Cameron Watson's direction is pitch-perfect. Morris and Byrd are pros, handling the sensitive characterizations with nary a misstep. Park and Murtadha are also excellent as the attractive couple whose future together unravels as Chris becomes aware of his father's guilt and Ann delivers a heartbreaking suicide note from Larry. Liao's palpable grief, as George, over his father's condition is remarkably moving.

Miller's setting is an American town in a carefully defined, post-WWII time period. As superior as the ensemble is and as universal as the human failings, it is difficult to see Miller's characters so modern in their lack of racial bias. The country was still deeply divided, particularly considering the catalytic inclusion of the Japanese in the war. This artifice was mildly disconcerting.

This production should not be missed, as it has authenticity of characters and allows audiences to recapture Miller's fine craftsmanship. It rings true in today's climate of corporate avarice and shifting morality.


by Steven Stanley

WOW!  It’s been nearly sixty-five years since Broadway audiences first thrilled to Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, decades during which countless actors have put their stamp on the now iconic roles of factory owner Joe Keller, Joe’s son Chris, Chris’s fiancée Ann Deever, and Ann’s brother George. It’s a sure bet, however, that few if any of them have ever looked like Alex Morris, A.K. Murtadha, Linda Park, and James Hiroyuki Liao—and for obvious reasons. The Kellers and Deevers are Caucasian. Morris, Murtadha, Park, and Liao are not.

To be sure, race-appropriate casting makes perfect historical sense in a period piece like All My Sons. That being said, theater is by its very definition a sort of alternate reality, making the Matrix Theatre Company’s non-traditional casting of its brilliant All My Sons revival a perfectly sensible decision as well.

Not that there won’t be those who will protest, and rightly so, that Arthur Miller never intended for his play to be “an examination of race in America,” which is how producer Joseph Stern has described this production, mistakenly I believe. Another legitimate complaint would be that that Stern’s decision to cast the Kellers as (in his words) “a mixed race family—Joe Keller is black, Kate Keller is white, and son Chris is biracial”—is a form of revisionist history, one that denies the realities of race relations at the time Miller wrote this play.

I prefer simply to consider the Matrix Theatre ensemble an inspired example of colorblind casting, taking one of the truly great plays of the 20th Century and affording a rainbow spectrum of actors the rare opportunity to portray some of the richest roles ever written for the American stage. See All My Sons with colorblind lenses and you have a truly remarkable production, and one which makes Miller’s themes all the more universal and relevant to this 21st Century world.

And trust me. Not only do Morris, Murtadha, Park, and Liao fit their All My Sons roles to a T in every way but racially, the entire cast’s performances rank among the finest you will ever see. (I speak from experience, having seen six previous productions.)

Debuting on Broadway less than two years after World War II ended with Japan’s surrender, Miller’s examination of personal responsibility in time of war remains every bit as powerful and relevant in 2011 as it did in 1947.

Miller’s Tony Award-winning drama centers on a day in the life of the Kellers, a Midwest family who seem from the outside to be living the American Dream. At curtain up, prosperous factory owner Joe Keller (Morris), his wife Kate (Anne Gee Byrd), and their adult son Chris (Murtadha) are welcoming a visit from grown up next door neighbor Ann Deever (Park), back in town for the first time since moving to New York several years earlier. Ann and the Kellers’ older son Larry were an item when Larry went off to war, but the elder Keller boy was declared missing in action three years ago, and there has been no word of his fate. Though Kate steadfastly refuses to believe that Larry is dead, Ann apparently feels quite differently about the matter. She and Chris have been corresponding secretly for the past two years, and Ann’s return home signals a change in their relationship. Friendship has turned to long distance love, and Chris is planning to propose to Ann. There’s only one hitch. An engagement between Chris and Ann would mean a tacit acceptance of Larry’s death, and this is something which Kate will never do.

There’s one other stumbling block to the young couple’s potential happiness together. Ann’s father (and Joe’s business partner) Steve was sentenced to prison three years earlier for having knowingly sent out a shipment of defective airplane parts from Joe’s and his factory, cracked cylinder heads which led to the deaths of twenty-one pilots. Joe had initially been found guilty as well, however his insistence that he was home sick in bed the day the order got shipped out, corroborated by Kate, soon relieved him of any responsibility for the plane crashes, and he was subsequently released from prison.

When Ann’s brother George (Liao) shows up on the Kellers’ doorstep following a prison visit with his father, the stage is set for a two-family showdown which will forever alter the path of Chris Keller’s life and the lives of those he loves.

All My Sons works brilliantly on many levels—as a story of family, as a love story, as a mystery, and as a discussion starter. Even more than six decades after its premiere, All My Sons’ questions still ring true. Does a person’s responsibility to his family trump his responsibility to his country? Does war bring out the worst in people, or their best? Can a person go on living without self respect or the respect of others?

As its secrets are revealed, All My Sons becomes steadily more engrossing. Expect to gasp. Expect to cry. Expect to be moved profoundly by this truly great work of American theater—particularly as directed by the brilliant Cameron Watson, who having never seen a production of All My Sons, approaches the masterpiece with brand new eyes—and this fresh, original approach shows in his cast’s unforgettable performances.

Morris brings a quarter century of much lauded work (he won L.A.’s Ovation award for his superb performance in Jitney) to the role of Joe Keller, one which he plays with explosive power and oceans of depth. Byrd proves once again as Kate why nearly every one of her performancea is welcomed with award nominations galore. The L.A. stage star’s steely, controlled work as the steely, controlling Kate is positively riveting, and never more so than when we watch helpless as the matriarch’s world unravels before her eyes. Murtadha is an absolutely wonderful Chris, making us believe in his idealism, his passion, and his ultimate disillusionment. An impressive Park makes Ann everything an Ann Deever should be, tough, determined, and passionately in love.

Supporting the above quartet is the splendid work of Taylor Nichols as good-natured neighbor Jim Bayless; Armand Vasquez, an earnest, understated Frank Lubey; Maritxell Carrero, perky perfection as Lydia Lubey, and Taylor Scofield, a charmer as wide-eyed neighbor boy Bert. I’ve had reservations in other productions about the ways some of these roles were performed. I have none whatsoever about the performances on the Matrix stage.

Finally, there is the truly stellar work of Liao as George and Anita Barone as neighbor Sue Bayliss, performances which make it crystal clear why these are two of the absolute best supporting roles in the Arthur Miller oeuvre. Liao’s work here is a revelation, particularly to a reviewer who has expressed reservations minor and major about previous Georges. With the intensity and depth of a young Brando, Liao grabs your heart from his first appearance as Ann’s angry, guilt-ridden brother and never lets go. Unlike others before him, the native Brooklynite’s performance is never forced, never less than authentic, and when he allows George to once again feel the Kellers’ warmth, the transformation is stunningly achieved. Like Liao, Barone makes the absolute most of her every Sue moment, earning laughs where others may have played it too dark, giving the character an outward sunniness that makes her digs all the more piercing. Simply put, Barone’s is one of the very best Sues ever.

A phenomenal design team makes this All My Sons look and sound absolutely terrific. Scenic designer John Iacovelli takes full advantage of the wide Matrix stage, giving us the façade and porch of the Keller home and an ample lawn and rocker-for-two for the cast to perform on. Like this production, Iacovelli’s set is both realistic and fanciful, and it works. Marcy Froehlich has costumed the cast to late 1940s perfection, and propmaster Chuck Olsen deserves kudos as well. Steven Cahill’s sound design ups the dramatic ante along with providing various authentic sounding effects. Brian Gale lights this all with consummate artistry (and some stunning fadeouts).

Jami Rudofsky is casting director, Gil Tordjman stage manager, and Allain Rochel managing director.

My advice to all lovers of great L.A. theater is as follows. Lay all reservations aside and let the performances of this magnificent cast give you an All My Sons like never before. Whether discovering Arthur Miller’s masterpiece for the first time or rediscovering it for the umpteenth, this is an all-around brilliant production, and one most definitely not to be missed.


"All My Sons" Keep It All In The Family
by Madeline Shaner

"The play's the thing," said Hamlet in that other famous play, "in which I'll catch the conscience of the King." No words could ring more true when applied to another great play, Arthur Miller's "All My Sons."

"Oh, that old chestnut!" said doubting Thomas, who wouldn't stay for an answer. Had he been less hasty, he would have experienced a drama far beyond his reckoning, a shattering production of Miller's 1947 masterpiece, updated to 2011, not in its text or its subtext, but in producer Joseph Stern's non-traditional, multi-ethnic casting. And why not? Stern has been infiltrating the present and, one can only hope, the future with plays that reflect the increasingly multi-ethnic casting of our daily lives in American and in many other parts of our 21st Century world. For 30 years, Stern has successfully produced classical theatre, building a widely admired body of work that brought the best of theatre to an appreciative audience, but with hardly a nod to a second or third world that had only just begun to be intellectually or artistically explored after WWII.

In 2009, Lydia Diamond's "Stick Fly," focused on an upper-middle class African American family, won all the gold for its production, followed by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' "Neighbors," a starkly dark study of racism in America, directed by Nataki Garrett, which recently opened in Minneapolis with Garrett admirably attached as director.

In casting "All My Sons," the aim was for a multi-racial cast which, after the audience's initial exchange of questioning sideways glances, takes off like a rocket headed for the moon, or at least the stars.

Yes, the time is post-WWII, and the location is small-town America, but the cast is multi-ethnic, for no reason other than each actor is a perfect fit for his or her role. Alex Morris, an African American, sturdily inhabits the solid Joe Keller, the above-average "Joe" who clawed his way up to management in The Depression and is happily enjoying the life of Riley in a fine house in a middle class family neighborhood, with his haunted, Caucasian wife, Kate, an always phenomenal Anne Gee Byrd, and his youngest son, Chris, a very credible, and personable bi-racial A.K. Murthadha. Linda Park, a sweetheart of an Asian beauty, plays the role of Ann Deever, the fiancée of Joe and Kate's older son who, three years after war's end, is still missing in action, a major plot point Kate refuses to believe. James Hiroyuki Liao, also Asian, is Ann's brother, George, who has sturdy incentive to take his sister home, away from the Keller household. The neighbors, Dr. Bayliss (Taylor Nichols) and his wife, Sue (a charming, chatty Anita Barone) are Caucasian, and Frank and Lydia Lubey are Latino. The role of Bert, the neighborhood brat, is shared by the cute Tobie Hess and Taylor Scofield. Honors to director Cameron Watson, who has given new, exciting life to a classic, still devastating play, and to Joseph Stern who never fails to win hearts and minds with his insistence on quality theatre.

Like many of us, I've seen (many times), read, and even played in "All My Sons" in my speckled career, but never have I been so moved as I was last Saturday by Miller's gerat play. I remained, transfixed, in my seat during intermission, and, woe is me, was stumbling and practically blinded by wrenching tears at the final curtain.

John Iacovelli's lovely mid-west backyard design, with lighting by Brian Gale and sound design by Steven Cahill, lends a comfortable, homey presence to the sometimes stressed, more complex than they seem, Keller household.

Go, go, go, go see "All My Sons," or "All Our Sons," as it might very well be called.


by Ernest Kearney

Joe Keller (Alex Morris) has owned and operated his metal factory for forty years. He nearly lost everything though when at the height of the war his company was accused of knowingly shipping damaged cylinder heads that resulted in the deaths of 21 army flyers. He and his partner Steve Deever are both arrested. Blame for their shipping falls on Deever alone. Joe is released while his former partner is tried and imprisoned. Joe and his wife Kate (Anne Gee Byrd) watched as their two sons go off to serve their country. Larry, their oldest, who was engaged to Deever’s daughter, becomes a fighter pilot in the Pacific theater. His younger brother Chris (A.K. Murtadha) sees combat in Europe. It’s now August, 1946. The war has ended and Chris returned to work beside his father in the family business. Larry didn’t return. His plane vanished over the China Sea in 1943. Even after three years, Kate maintains an unwaveringly faith that he’s alive, collecting news clipping of other sons’ miraculous returns as proof that “God is good.”

The play opens the morning after a fierce thunderstorm had battered the area. There is a casualty of the storm’s fury in the Keller’s backyard, a fallen apple tree that had been planted in the missing brother’s memory. The Keller’s are excited by a houseguest, Ann Deever (Linda Park), daughter of Joe’s imprisoned partner. To escape the shame of their father’s crime, her family sold their home next door to the Keller’s and moved to New York City. Neither she nor her brother George (James Hiroyuki Liao) have had contact with him since.

Kate is overjoyed, finding in Ann’s surprise visit, who she still regards as “Larry’s girl,” and the falling of the tree, signs of her missing son’s imminent arrival. What Kate doesn’t know is she and Chris have been corresponding the past two years and that she’s there at his invitation where he plans to ask her to marry him.

A “midpoint” is defined as “a position midway between two extremes,” and that is where Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” begins, the midpoint for two families between the two extremes of the past and the future.

Miller’s first play failed, closing less than a week after opening. He resolved to try his hand at playwriting once more, vowing he’d give it up and “find some other line of work” if it didn’t meet with better success.

His mother-in-law had shown him an article about a daughter, who discovering her manufacturer father sold defective equipment to the US military during the war, had reported him to the government. This newspaper clipping was the basis for Miller’s second play “All My Sons.”

In it he embraces the classic Greek unities unfolding the drama on a single set over a single day. But these limitations don’t serve to restrict the sweep of his creativity. Most notably, Miller, drawing on the Old Testament, places in the Keller’s garden a fallen apple tree, struck down by a bolt of lightning, both echoing and foreshadowing the destruction and liberation that knowledge offers.

“All My Sons” premiered in January of 1947 and ran for 328 performances. Miller stayed with playwriting. The work presents with unsullied clarity the prowess which the young playwright possessed as well as his promise, and can be seen as a “first draft” to Miller’s 1949 masterwork “Death of a Salesman”.

Cameron Watson’s splendid staging of “All My Sons” now playing at the Matrix Theatre could well serve as a textbook example for demonstrating what the essence of good direction is. He has presented the work in the best light of its strengths, he has added relevance but not imposed it, and has guided his cast over the treacherous terrain that a “classic” challenges a director with giving his audience not a museum piece, but theater that breathes.

The first and greatest hurdle to any director is casting. Any time I see a show that is well cast across the board I know it means one of two things. Either the director has a keen eye for talent and deep respect for those who endure eight weeks of labor pains to end in a delivery spread over six weeks with matinees on Sunday; or the director got damn lucky; with this cast I suspect both.

Morris, Byrd and Murtadha infuse their performances with those nuances of agony the intimacy of families engenders. As Joe, Morris skillfully conveys the common man’s uncommon potential for good and evil. Park’s Ann is a study in sincerity. We feel her love for the Keller family and her brother, and we feel her immense loneliness establishing the internal conflicts justifying the lateness of her third act revelation which serves as the play’s peripeteia. Television viewers will remember Park best as Hoshi Sato from Star Trek: Enterprise. (And that oughta put some Klingons in the audience.)

The play’s other characters function as voices of a chorus in division. Neighbor Frank (Arman Vasquez) like the Delphic Oracle, is trying to provide Kate with Larry’s horoscope as proof he couldn’t have died on the day he disappeared. Taylor Nichols portrays Doctor Bayliss with the honest humanity of one who wishes to heal all and suffers for his inability to. Anita Barone as his wife deftly shifts from sweet face nurse to money obsessed nag, personifying the Erinyes the paired furies sent by the Gods to torment “whomever has sworn a false oath.”

Deserving special notice is Liao, for a standout performance in a standout cast. The character of George Deever can be compared to that of Tiresias, the blind prophet tortured by the truth he knows and which when told is not believed. The role poises two difficulties: Its character’s arc counterpoints a pivotal shift in the dramatic narrative of the play, and the character’s stage time is brief. Faced by such a double whammy many actors falter. But Liao accomplishes this and more, bringing to the stage the stark suffering resulting from a sin not yet known. In this he is excellently aided by Maritxell Carrero as Lydia, once George’s sweetheart and now married to Frank. Their short moments on stage are mesmerizing and heartbreaking as each contends with what might have been once, and now is lost.

Going into the production I was troubled by the notion of its non-traditional casting – the Kellers are an interracial couple, the Deevers Asian. This is 1947 after all, Executive Order 9102 had been nullified for less than year, the armed services still remained segregated and I feared this would somehow jar my “suspension of disbelief.” Well I stand corrected. Producer Joseph Stern (“Stick Fly”, “Neighbors”, “The Birthday Party” and others – many others!) is far too gifted and experienced to arrive at such a decision offhandedly or merely for the sake of expedience. By his choice of an ethnically diverse cast, Stern has brought to the forefront of our receptiveness the play’s profound “universal truth” in the shadow of which the loss of a “historical reality” went all but unnoticed.

Part of Miller’s genius was his ability to see beyond the illusion of the contemporaneous. “History always repeats itself,” the saying goes, and the saying is dead wrong. It’s not history but man, who unwilling or unable to learn from his past mistakes, keeps repeating them over and over. It’s a question of perspective. Miller recognized this and so perceived in the events of his own day, whether in HUAC hearings or a businessman’s betrayal, the same tragic issue found in the drama of Sophocles and Euripides, the failure of human beings to be humane.

Near the close of “All My Sons” one character cries out in his own defense, “A man can’t be a Jesus in this world.” In this statement you hear the first note of a reframe which will reoccur throughout Miller’s body of work: that one cannot be his own redeemer cleansing away the sin by self-forgiveness. A man is what his choices make him, and it is by our decisions “in this world” that we decide our own damnation or salvation. Considering these troubled times we are in, perhaps we need to be reminded of that.