Matrix Theatre Company presents Non-traditionally cast for All My Sons
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 family-Joe 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 Arman 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.