In the wake of World War II, a family's backyard becomes the setting for further conflict in "All My Sons," by Arthur Miller, which hits the Riverwalk Theatre stage Thursday. The troupe included "All My Sons" in its 2015-2016 season to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Miller's birth.

"It's certainly something to be recognized," said Bob Robinson, director of the Riverwalk Theatre production. "Miller is one of our great American playwrights."

Robinson finds that although the 1947 play is a product of its time, its themes are still relevant to modern audiences.

"I first did the show about 25 years ago, and it was a powerful production then," he said. "It's one of those plays with a universal theme and a message that's always timely."

Set shortly after the end of the war, “All My Sons” unfolds in the backyard of the Kellers, a troubled family left reeling after one of their sons never comes home from battle. While mother Kate (Eve Davidson) denies that her son has died, surviving brother Chris (Jeff Magnuson) makes plans to marry his brother's childhood sweetheart, Ann (Meghan Eldred). On top of it all, the dubious business dealings of the family’s father, Joe (Michael Hays), come back to haunt the family.

Miller, who wrote "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," frequently draws upon common themes, such as a close-knit family or a small town, in order to make his dramas compelling.

"You see the tightness of the small group of people, which demonstrates his feelings on things like social responsibility," Robinson said about Miller's plays.

The play draws some inspiration from real-world events. In 1944, three U.S. Army officials were charged and eventually convicted of neglect of duty for participating in a scheme that allowed defective airplane engines to be used in Army planes. After seeing the story in the papers, Miller wove elements of the scandal into the Keller family's unfolding story.

"All My Sons" focuses on just one family and its immediate neighbors, creating an insular environment where the effects of betrayals, celebrations and uncovered lies are powerful and immediate. As the story goes on, the tension between characters ramps up, but so do the joyful moments.

"This play has as many emotions in it as I can remember any play having," Robinson said. "Miller's forte is using human emotion to tell the story. There's great happiness and great tragedy in the play.

There's love and there is hate, there is greed and generosity. All of those emotions and themes are frequent in Miller plays, and ‘All My Sons’ is no exception."


“All My Sons”

Riverwalk Theatre Co.

7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7; 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8 and Saturday, Jan. 9; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10; 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14; 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17;

$10/$8 seniors, students and military Thursday; $15/$12 seniors, students and military Friday-Sunday

Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing

(517) 482-5700, riverwalktheatre.com

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