A passionate ‘Death of a Salesman’ at the Playhouse
By STEPHANIE OTTEY
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is without contest one of the most iconic pieces of American drama. Premiering in 1949 and winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama, it made a mark as a sad tribute to the dying American dream and remains as such today.
The plot centers on “everyman” Willy Loman, a traveling salesman at the end of his career, facing a life filled with regret, deceit and guilt.
In the Youngstown Playhouse’s production, directed by Joseph Scarvell, Chuck Simon plays Willy Loman with a fervor that reveals a new side to the character. He carries himself in a delirious, resentful stupor, often boiling with rage, thus providing the vulnerable character with an especially hardened edge. Simon’s Willy is more bitter than proud, it seems. The bitterness is relatable, so Willy remains sympathetic, but not so much as the family of characters surrounding him.
It’s the suffering Loman family that makes “Death of a Salesman” so thoroughly memorable.
Molly Galano’s Linda Loman breaks hearts. Once again, Galano delivers a character that is perfectly balanced and thus easily loved.
By knowing when to push and when to pull, Galano develops a Linda that hangs delicately between being powerful and vulnerable to Willy — and is good to the core. Her connection to the role is palpable.
Cheney Morgan’s portrayal of Biff can be described with one word: passionate. Morgan’s commitment to Willy’s son manifests in him emotionally and physically, and he successfully makes Biff as much of an everyman as his father. His performance is engrossing, and serves to showcase how a 60-year-old play can still be relevant today.
Matthew Jude DiBattiste makes a mark as Happy Loman, as well. DiBattiste makes Happy a light counterpart to Morgan’s tortured Biff, and the contrast is lovely. Happy is the finishing touch needed to make the Loman family story complete, and DiBattiste fits the role well.
Besides these four central figures, “Death of a Salesman” features quite a few cameos. Joey Pascarella is a kind cousin Bernard, Stephanie Cambro is a sultry mistress, Terry Shears is a uniquely manipulative Ben Loman, and Dave Wolford is suited to for the warm Charley.
Also appearing are Brian Dew, Lauren May Wenick, Frank G. Martin, Donny Wolford, and Kate Starling.
Joseph Scarvell clearly respects the Miller creation — he has led his cast to act as a believable dysfunctional family unit, and this is essential to the success of the show.
Leslie Brown’s stunning set puts it on a new level, though. Brown’s design is muted and gray, a lovely parallel to the lives within it, and is constructed with obvious skill.
Overall, this is one of the most professional and thought-provoking shows to see the Youngstown Playhouse’s main stage this season.