Materialistic tragedy shown in ‘Salesman’

by David Dixon

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Courtesy of theoldglobe.org

A 63-year-old traveling salesman named Willy Loman (Emmy and Tony Award nominee, Jeffrey DeMunn) is losing his touch with reality.

From the opening scene Willy seems to be in a surreal state of mind. He acts manic-
depressive, which is evidenced when the “joyous family man” instantaneously transforms into a hateful self-centered bully. Willy also loves to think about his past experiences while speaking to himself out loud for everyone to hear. His wife and two grown sons try to help the flawed patriarch, because despite his issues, they all seem to love him in some form or another.

The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre’s production of “Death of a Salesman” is a disturbing three-hour examination of a man whose life values are shallow and materialistic.

DeMunn gives a towering performance as the lead. His take on Willy is crammed with rage and paranoia as he descends into his own madness.

Robin Moseley portrays Linda, Willy’s wife, as a woman of contradictions. She is both weak and tough for being so loyal to Willy, a person whom few individuals can tolerate. The darkly funny Tyler Pierce plays the Lomans’ son Happy, a hotshot playboy who appears to still respect his dad despite his increasingly erratic behavior.

Lucas Caleb Rooney is superb as Biff, the secret emotional drive of the show. He is a bum who cannot maintain a job because of his troublemaker personality. It is remarkable that even with his lack of direction and negative qualities, the audience cannot help but sympathize with him. There are several key moments when Biff breaks down emotionally to his father. When these events happen, it is hard not to shed some tears for the grown-up child who has given up on trying to please Willy.

“Death of a Salesman” works both as an intimately epic tragedy and as a mystery. There are secrets each family member hides for quite some time. As the mood becomes darker and darker, more information and revelations are revealed to the characters. With every plot twist, chaos and heartbreak occur.

Marion Williams’ scenic design for the production resembles a well-preserved house. The striking set includes a refrigerator, table and two sets of stairs. Nothing feels inauthentic about it, which is tough to do, given the small size of the stage.

Director Pam MacKinnon is excellent when it comes to timing. Some of the actors need to enter certain areas of the set quickly and without hesitation. Her directorial skills are remarkable and makes the piece of work move at a smooth pace.

An essential piece of American theater, “Death of a Salesman” is a must-see for those who want to see a dramatic and undeniably brilliant masterpiece. Audiences still might not have too much pity for Willy, but by the end of the play spectators will empathize with Arthur Miller’s portrayal of the self-destructive common man.

Tickets and information about “Death of a Salesman” can be found at theoldglobe.org.

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