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Simple family story is much more complex

Philip J. Shortell plays Joe Keller and Lorrie Oliver is Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” (Courtesy of Philip J. Shortell and Lorrie Oliver)
Philip J. Shortell plays Joe Keller and Lorrie Oliver is Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” (Courtesy of Philip J. Shortell and Lorrie Oliver)
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The first of Arthur Miller’s plays that launched his literary success, “All My Sons,” is as simple as families on either side of a back fence and as complex as wartime profiteering and corruption.

“At its heart ‘All My Sons’ is a simple family story,” says director James Cady. “Those characters on stage don’t know they are exploring larger themes.”

Miller has embroiled two families in a lie, a deceit so large it cost 21 pilots their lives as they flew faulty aircrafts in World War II.

If you go
WHAT: “All My Sons”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Feb. 22-March 17
WHERE: The Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth NW
HOW MUCH: $15 general admission, $13 students and seniors. For reservations call 898-9222 or go to www.adobetheater.org

Manufacturer Joe Keller, the main character, with his family’s finances in mind, knowingly shipped faulty aircraft parts to war.

He and his partner were sent to prison, but Keller has been exonerated and released.

The play, taking place in Keller’s backyard in 1947, explores the family at a crossroads, where the truth will inevitably trump the lie.

“I love Arthur Miller. This is a wonderful play that makes the director’s and actors’ work easy,” says Cady, who has directed more than 60 plays. “All good plays are about a lie, and it is the job of the playwright to expose that lie so that the rest of us may live our lives in truth.”

As the title implies, Cady says the tragic play explores the theme of family: “Do we have a greater responsibility to our family or to the larger family of man?”

Cady directs two of the leading actors in this Miller play, whom he directed recently at the Vortex in the better-known Miller play, “Death of a Salesman.” “I think ‘All My Sons’ is the better play,” he says. “I’m not alone in that. The debate rages on.”

Philip J. Shortell and Lorri Oliver, who performed the roles of Willie and Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” will play Joe Keller and his wife, Kate.

Shortell says he’s pleased to have both characters in his repertoire.

“These are two of the most flawed human beings who have ever been drawn on the American stage,” he says, but despite their dark qualities are sympathetic.

“Philosophically I hope I am as far from Joe Keller as it is possible to get, yet I know that some of the things that drive Joe Keller are the same things that drive me.”

Oliver says that she loves Miller because of his complex characters: “His plays have characters that love fiercely.”

She says that Kate lives in denial about her husband’s actions and continues to support him and forgive him, even though she knows on some level that he is responsible for the pilots’ deaths.

“She has strength, but she comes off as frail, at least mentally,” Oliver says. “The mixture of both is challenging and exciting.”

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