Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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Patrick Wilson, left, Katie Holmes and Christian Camargo in 'All My Sons.' (Photo by Joan Marcus) Click here to enlarge.

NEW YORK – Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," currently being revived on Broadway, was written in 1947 and was Miller's first success. An earlier play, "The Man Who Had All the Luck," lasted only a few performances; a mere two years later, in 1949, he would write his masterwork "Death of a Salesman."

"All My Sons" centers around Joe Keller (John Lithgow), a successful midwestern manufacturer of airline parts during World War II, who knowingly sends defective cylinder heads to the Army, which results in the deaths of 24 young airmen. At the trial, he betrays his business partner, who lands in jail, but saves himself and his company. Late in the play, further proof of Keller’' guilt surfaces when it is revealed that one of his sons, reported missing, actually killed himself when he learned of his father’s deeds. With "All My Sons," Mr. Miller attempted a modern Greek tragedy set in an American backyard.

This new production of "All My Sons" doesn't come off as effectively as it should, and I'm afraid the fault lies with British director Simon McBurney's approach. In 1983, Mr. McBurney cofounded the avant-garde theater troupe "Complicite," which has previously presented in New York an iconoclastic take on Ionesco's absurdist play, "The Chairs," and the original "Mnemonic," a fascinating theatrical multimedia exploration of memory.

Here, Mr. McBurney's apparent intention with "All My Sons" is not to present Miller's play literally or conventionally, but rather to dispense with the reality of the work. Even before the play begins, he assembles the cast on stage and has Mr. Lithgow step forward to address the audience directly, thus breaking the theater's fourth wall. By doing away from the get-go with all sense of naturalism, Mr. McBurney undermines the audience's involvement with Mr. Miller's deftly drawn characters. In addition to that, he also unnecessarily uses cinematic musical underscoring for some scenes and flashes video projections onto Tom Pye's minimalistic set to heighten the play's melodrama.

The actors, some of the best the American theater can offer, mostly survive Mr. McBurney's dicey concept. Mr. Lithgow plays Joe Keller as a folksy small-town father at one moment and a raging, despondent King Lear the next. Dianne Wiest impresses in the difficult role of his wife, who cannot accept her son's death. Patrick Wilson could not be better as the surviving son who will not tolerate his father's ill deeds. Even the young Katie Holmes, of "Dawson's Creek" fame and wife of Hollywood film actor Tom Cruise, here making her New York stage debut, does well most of the time in the role of the dead brother's fiancée.

Yet, in the end, one tends to leave this "All My Sons" admiring the sturdiness of Miller's playwriting and the acting of its stalwart players, rather than being emotionally moved by the Keller family's tragic story.

Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers the arts and entertainment.


alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.