Presented by Lyric Stage Co of Boston (40 Years)
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Review by Kitty Drexel
From the program notes: Robert N. Wilson, The Writer as Social Seer
“Willy’s failure is our failure, for we are also involved in the cult of success, and we, too, measure men by occupational attainment rather than by some sympathetic calculus of the whole human being. We are all partners in the American Dream and parties to the conspiracy of silence surrounding the fact that failures must by definition outnumber successes, given our cultural ground rules and or singular interpretations of the words ‘success’ and ‘failure’.”
(Boston) There is so much that The Lyric’s production of Death of a Salesman gets right. This is a fantastic production – the best of theirs I’ve seen all season, which is saying a lot for a theatre that regularly that creates solid art. It is the same cut and dried script that generations have come to love with a few spins that make it new and poignant.
Salesman is excellently cast. The actors have a great chemistry and react to each so naturally one might think they were a family off stage as well as on. Joseph Marrella is first charming and then dastardly as Happy. Kelby T. Akin is moodily alluring as his Biff fluxes manically throughout the performance. The ebb and flow of familial pretend stability to realized tragedy matches the script seamlessly.
The supporting cast is equally well matched. Their packaged performance makes me wish Miller had written more about these characters so we could follow up with them after the curtain drops.
Ken Baltin crumbles beautifully as Willy Loman. Baltin’s fragility wrapped in old school masculinity norms first woos the audience and then crushes it as he falls apart on stage. He evokes empathy, not pity, with his performance even as he desperately begs his family, associates and audience to be liked. We do like you, Willy. We’d like you even more if you weren’t so insecure.
It is no secret that Spiro Veloudos is an excellent director. He lives up to the hype.
It was excellent seeing POCs* in a play that is usually only about White people. In this production, POCs get to be people and that is greatly refreshing. Lyric regular, Jordan Clark (Miss Forsythe) played a regular lady out on the town. She was not forced to bend to stereotypes. Even better was the inclusion of Omar Robison as Howard Wagner (and fight choreographer). A Black man played a character of power that wasn’t the source of the protagonist’s misery. Shocking! Not shocking: Robinson held the stage well. His performance commanded Willy to cower. Willy was powerless to do anything but.
This production of Salesman is about confronting the sins of the father as much as it is the definition of success. The cast gives great depth to its role as storyteller. If Willy Loman is everyman then, like everyman, Loman is more complicated than his first appearance. This production shines light on society’s juxtaposition of happiness, success and appearances through Loman’s deterioration; looking like one is successful is just as important if not more as actually being successful. This classic piece of dramatic literature is a must see. The performance is sure to stick with the viewer long into the future.
*Persons of Color