Most people know Arthur Miller’s 1949 Pulitzer-winning drama, Death of a Salesman. The play is almost part of our collective DNA. Yet audiences will be surprised by the new production that is underway in the River Arts District.
The Magnetic Theatre eschews a typical approach to this production. In the deeply moving tale, salesman Willy Lowman is lost in the post-WWII-era America. For Loman, who is in his 60s, the things he found comforting and the world he thought he knew are changing before him. Steven Samuels brings Loman to life, shifting from the frustrations of the world confronting him to the disconnected fancies that haunt him. He sees the past intertwining with the present and gets lost between the two. My wife remarked of his performance, “He’s the real deal.”
Director Henry Williamson III has taken an iconic play, assembled a perfect cast, and created an experience that makes Salesman a moving personal journey for the characters and the audience. It is a deep examination of the fragile interpretation of the American Dream and the rifts that arise between generations over what it means and how to achieve it. Williamson guides the cast through the twists of the human spirit, allowing them to breathe life into the characters and revel in the wonderfully poetic writing.
Jane Hallstrom plays Linda Loman, the weary wife. She lives in a certain degree of denial as she tries to find a way to make peace with Willy’s failing mental state while also bringing peace to the family. Erik Moellering‘s performance as Biff, the angry older son, is a breakout. Biff has been adrift since high school and harbors a deep anger over his father’s failings. Allen Law is the more outgoing younger son, Happy. He inhabits the middle ground of denial and attempts to hold the fragile family together.
Every performer in the show, from those with the smallest supporting roles to the leads, is to be commended for their professional execution of daunting material. Standouts include David Mycoff’s Charley, Elliot Weiner’s Ben and Cody Magouirk as Bernard.
The set, by Chase Watkin, has a wonderfully cluttered and claustrophobic feeling, an embodiment of the world that whirls within the mind of Willy Lowman. It’s a space in which the specter of death takes on many forms: Death of one’s way of life, one’s dignity, one’s hopes and dreams and one’s perception of what makes a life worth living.
WHAT: Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through May 28, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.