Nothing new under the son

The timeliness of the themes in ‘All My Sons’ is quite evident as two of Israel’s leading theater companies team up to present Arthur Miller’s classic.

By
July 13, 2011 22:19
4 minute read.
Henry Miller's 'All My Sons'

Henry Miller's 'All My Sons'. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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They do say, don’t they, that for every two Jews you get at least three opinions. With that in mind it is heartening to see two of our leading theater companies doing business in tandem.

Last Saturday evening the Haifa Theater and Cameri Theater put on the first performance of a new co-production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, in Haifa. There is one more show in the north before the play relocates to Tel Aviv where the current run ends on July 23. More performances are planned in August and September.

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As director Moshe Naor observes, there is a timeless message or two to be had in All My Sons. The play relates the story of a successful businessman, Joe Keller, who supplies faulty aircraft parts to the US Army during World War Two, inadvertently causing the deaths of 21 pilots. Rather than take responsibility for the defective shipment Keller lays the blame at the door of his partner, Steve Deever. As the play progresses, the truth starts to emerge, to the detriment of both families, and Keller’s attempt to protect his family from the financial backlash of his actions fails.

Naor feels that the play’s messages are just as relevant today as they were play came out in 1948, if not more so.

“The play has become a classic and was written with some emotion behind it,” says the director.

“The situation has only deteriorated since then.”

The “situation” to which Naor refers is the moral health of society in general.

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“The area of individual responsibility has worsened, and to what extent money can be damaging, how much everyone wants to grab for themselves. In those days the world ended at the fence around your backyard but, today, the situation is far more extreme.

Today it is each person for himself, even within the family. In that respect it is much easier to understand Joe Keller’s actions than it was back then.”

For Naor the current production has been a long time coming.

“I have been waiting for the right cast to become available for about three years,” he says.

“We have been working very hard on this for about 10 weeks, and I still find it as moving as when we began.”

The two-theater company cast includes the likes of Leora Rivlin, Natan Detner, Yishai Golan and Efrat Arnon.

ONE GETS the feeling, though, that it is not just the fact that this is a lauded piece of writing by Miller that has Naor so fired up. Incidentally, All My Sons followed a string of dismal failures by the playwright and, incredibly, given his subsequent star-studded career, Miller was on the verge of trying another means of making ends meet. In addition to the quality entertainment value of the production, Naor plainly wants to convey Miller’s messages to the public at large.

“The way the world is structured today, whereby often the person with the money determines criteria, and morals can become flexible in such a situation, that is a new state of affairs,” the director continues.

“I think that situation is becoming increasingly extreme with time.”

Considering the nadir which Miller’s burgeoning writing career had reached at the time, the courage displayed by the playwright in proffering a tale with a strong social-moral subtext and, indeed, undisguised criticism of the American Dream, is all the more commendable. In fact, the script eventually landed Miller in trouble with the House of Representatives House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, when the United States was gripped by anticommunist hysteria.

“There is something quite shocking in the play which, I think, was meant to shake up the public in America at the time,” says Naor, adding that while some of Keller’s motives may be fully understandable the bottom line is unforgivable.

“You might think you that you are doing something to protect your family, to ensure you don’t lose your job and can still feed your children and give them a good start to life.

On the other hand, if you don’t take the streets and express your opposition to something that you believe to be very damaging, or desist from poor decisions yourself, you might end up with a world in which your children may not want to live. We are living in times now that if you shout out too loud about certain issues you might very well end up losing your means of livelihood.”

While not exactly taking the play too personally, Naor says that he – and anyone in his position – can’t help but be affected by the subject matter.

“This production, of course, goes through my filter, as a father living in contemporary times. People think that, once the door shuts on the rehearsal room, we completely detach from the outside the world. It comes through. I am living now and am aware of the current vibe, here and in the world.”

Given, as he sees it, the general drop in moral standards Naor feels the audiences will get the messages of All My Sons loud and clear.

For tickets and more info: Haifa Theater – (04) 860- 0500 and www.ht1.co.il; Cameri Theater – (03) 606-0960 and www.cameri.co.il

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