A classic expertly rendered
'Death of a Salesman' tells a timeless story of lost dreams.
By L. CROW
If you're in the mood for a classic American play, some great, serious drama performed by a superb cast, surrounded by a spectacular set, then grab a few hankies and head out to the Oakland. "Death of a Salesman," the very sad, tragic tale of guilt and regret, will be onstage for two more weekends.
The story is about a traveling salesman, Willy Loman, whose life is crumbling away. At age 63, he sees himself as a failure, and suffers mental torture as he experiences flashbacks of key events that shaped the outcome of his life. Basing his whole existence on shallow appearances, he sees a lifetime of errors of judgment reflected in his two useless sons. But perhaps Willy's biggest mistake was to never question his values or his authenticity, and now, as his life nears the end, he is tormented by nothing but questions. The play takes place in the last 24 hours before his suicide.
The main energy of this play revolves around the relationships among the four Lomans: Willy (Charles Simon), his wife, Linda (Jane Hill), and his sons, Biff (James McClellan) and Happy (Ed Walsh). Each reacts to Willy's increasing insanity in his or her own way, but it is the dynamics between Biff and Willy that create the most uncomfortable tension throughout the performance.
Biff, a self-admitted loser, is probably the only member of the family who faces reality. He is a wanderer, a petty thief, in and out of jail, and clueless as to what his life is about. But somewhere, we sense that deep within there lies a good person, longing to live a life that is right.
Growing up, he was the love of Willy's life, undisciplined and placed on a pedestal. He likewise doted on his father, until an incident burst his bubble of hero worship and his life came crashing down. His soul is just as tormented as Willy's and we feel pity for him most of all, believing there is still hope that he might escape and break out of the mold. In the end, it all comes to a head in a violent and emotional showdown between the two. Simon and McClellan masterfully paced their building of intensity, and this final outburst was heart-stopping, the epitome of hopelessness and despair.
Devoted, frightened wife
Linda is the devoted housewife who dares not question her husband. Aware of Willy's suicide attempts, she frantically presses to stay one step ahead of him, surrounding him with a wall of protection and demanding his respect from her sons. In the end, all of her efforts are in vain, and she is left to face her own wasted life alone. Hill's performance was magnificent.
Happy, on the other hand, has become Willy's reflection of all that is immoral, selfish and lacking in integrity. He has an insatiable appetite for acquiring that which has no value, and is probably the one character that could help Willy, yet the two barely seem to notice each other. Walsh did a superb job in bringing this unlikable character to life.
The most evil character, however, is the ghost of Willy's dead brother, Ben (Tommy O'Donnell), who appears, reminding Willy of what could have been, and ultimately taunting him to his death.
Congratulations to director Mike Hinge and his talented cast and crew for this exceptional production of a very difficult play.
It continues through March 25, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. There is one Sunday matinee, next Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information, call (330) 746-0404.