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Critic's Choice: A revelatory ‘All My Sons’ revival

Roger Mueller (left) and Erik Hellman face off in a scene from Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” which is being revived by TimeLine Theatre.
Roger Mueller (left) and Erik Hellman face off in a scene from Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” which is being revived by TimeLine Theatre.

Idealism and pragmatism are at loggerheads in a bareknuckled clash in Arthur Miller’s well-scripted, provocative “All My Sons,” now in revival by TimeLine Theatre under the capable directorial hands of Kimberly Senior.

Set in 1947 in the backyard of the Keller home on the outskirts of an American town, the play is tightly wound around love, loss and an old secret from the past. Its subject matter could still serve as a tutorial on contemporary business ethics.

Exceptionally strong leads with solid backing from the rest of the cast provide fresh insights on the play.

The story is sparked by the arrival of Ann (Cora Vander Broek), a former neighbor once engaged to Larry Keller who went missing in action during World War II some three years ago. She’s there at the behest of a surviving brother, Chris (Erik Hellman), who wants her for his wife.

But Kate Keller (Janet Ulrich Brooks) refuses to acknowledge that her son has perished and obsesses over his eventual return. She’s also dead-set against any relationship between Chris and Ann.

Meanwhile, the effusive family patriarch Joe (Roger Mueller) says he wants what’s best for Chris but is concerned for the well-being of Kate. However, he also has a bigger problem: years ago he was exonerated of charges as a war profiteer whose plant knowingly sold faulty airplane cylinder heads that resulted in the deaths of multiple fighter pilots. Ever since his neighbors have continued to suspect that the whole story never came out.

Joe’s partner, who just happens to be Ann’s estranged father, became the fall guy and ended up in jail. Now Ann’s brother George (good work by PJ Powers), a conflicted lawyer, also shows up at the Keller household after visiting his imprisoned father. George wants to resurrect the case to shift the blame to Joe; he also wants to stop his sister from marrying into the family.

Mueller’s performance is impassioned as he argues that everything he did – including questionable business decisions – was for the family (“there’s nothing bigger than family”). So is that of Brooks, the grieving, emotionally distraught mother who shares too many dark secrets.

Hellman stands out as the idealistic son with a knack for challenging others to raise their aspirations. Broek is another bright star who is ready to move on with her life.

Kudos also to actors Rebecca Buller, Juliet Hart, John Byrnes and Mark Richard as well as to Jack Magaw for scenic design and Lindsey Pate for costumes.

Tickets, please

What: “All My Sons”
TimeLine Theatre Company
Where: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., in Chicago
When: Through Oct. 4
Tickets:$25 to $35
Show information: 773-404-7336

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