Earlier this year, I watched my high school drama club perform All My Sons, a famous play written by Arthur Miller based upon the life of the Kellers, a family with unexpected secrets. Though the play was produced and directed by amateur actors and actresses, I was thoroughly surprised and drawn into the dynamics of each scene. After watching this play, I realized theatre reaps with benefits as the audience is able to fully immerse themselves into the plot as they are witnessing the events first hand. Set in post World War II, All My Sons was a story that showcased the values of the ‘American Dream,’ manipulation, and denial.
All My Sons is a play filled with emotionally riveting events, such as when Chris discovered his own father was responsible for Larry’s death or when Joe had taken his own life. After watching the play, I was curious about how the movie compares and in doing this, I discovered there were multiple differences between the two productions. This contrast was particularly noticeable during Joe’s death scene. The live performance was far more emotionally invested as the atmosphere of the theater and the sound of a gun echoing throughout the dark room made the event appear more realistic. And while the movie did execute the scene with the same ambiance as the play, I did not find myself overcome with the influx of sadness I experienced when watching it live. Theatre offers a greater sense of humanity as each individual in the audience is able to easily convey conflicts and relationships than when watching a movie on a screen.
Movies and television shows tend to be too cutthroat in a sense. Movie directors are always striving for perfection and are constantly adjusting particular scenes until they are satisfied with the results, even if it means sacrifices certain other qualities. With live theatre, actors are given one chance and because of this, these performances portray far more dramatic emotions and actions that make a play far more interesting. My high school’s All My Sons performance was true to the script and did not stray too far from the original plot, however, there were some subtle differences I believe helped improve the quality of the act. In the play, the Director decided to choose actors who were in real-life relationships as she believed the subtle touches and speech between the characters appeared more relaxed and natural. On the other hand, when I watched the film adaptation, I noted the actors did not intimately interact with each other as much as my high school cast did, which is another reason why I enjoyed the live performance more.Though, there were instances where the movie was better due to the stellar acting, realistic set, and more natural atmosphere provided by those trained professionals.
That being said, both performances did not fail to create an interesting rendition of one of Miller’s famous works. The Kellers are described as being the typical American family: a blue-collared father, a loving housewife, and a successful son who has a beautiful wife. However, this is revealed to be a facade as the plot begins to grow, largely emphasizing the additional theme of manipulation. Joe, the father, blamed his best friend for building faulty airplanes, Kate, the mother, refuses to believe her son is dead, and Chris, the son, chooses to ignore anything that threatens his family’s integrity. Miller mocked the Kellers’ incessant need to become a perfect family despite their troubled past and hidden secrets and pushed the hidden idea that every character in All My Sons is a liar and in denial. Miller chose to push upon the “American Dream” theme upon Chris Keller, displaying how Chris’s idealist thinking lead to the downfall of Joe’s and his relationship.
These turn of events demonstrated how the concept of fitting in with social norms is necessary to create a “perfect” family and emphasized the purposeless standards placed on families. All My Sons was a play that exhibited numerous themes such as mocking society’s need for perfection and taught me how live theatre is better than its recorded counterpart. Each character was responsible for creating the conflicts within the plot, and Miller enforced them to realize their faults when everyone’s secrets were discovered. The play also stressed the difference between live theatre and film adaptations, highlighting the pros and cons of both types of entertainment. Emphasizing the need to rid society of harsh expectations and illustrating its effects on the Keller family, Miller put forth a strong and meaningful message to his audience.