By Roxy Orcutt
There is so much to say about Death of a Salesman it is hard to articulate into a short review. To stick to simple observations and critiques is hard because the material cannot help but create analyzing and discussion. The themes of the show, the fragility of men, the relationships between fathers and sons, the relationship between men and their wives, the emphasis society puts on outer-appearance and status, the fear of failure and mental illness are all covered in this iconic American play. Heavy subjects indeed, but Lyric Arts handles this material beautifully and deftly.
The lighting of the show was as much as a character as the actors themselves. The use of shadows, spotlights, subtle color changes and soft candlelight at one point gave the show an all-encompassing, somewhat dreamy atmosphere at times that made you feel like you were inside the deteriorating mind of main character Willy Loman, played by Warren Sampson. Sampson’s Willy, all his manic highs and depressive lows, are perfectly balanced, never insulting the character, understanding that Willy is pure ego on one hand and pure desperation on the other.
Willy’s sons Biff and Happy, played by Ty Hudson and Max Lorei, are creations of both the ego and desperation. Willy has convinced his sons that not only can you be anything in the world that they already were everything. As young boys they worshiped their father, but now as adults Biff, the eldest, sees Willy in a much harsher light and lives a life his father resents. Where Happy ignores the reality around him and follows his father’s lead in life. The scenes when Willy and his sons interact were some of the most compelling things I have seen on stage. The drama and skill I was seeing, from the acting, to the costuming and set design made me feel like I was watching a television drama.
The glue of this family, Linda Loman, the mother and wife, heartbreakingly portrayed by Martha Wigmore was nothing short of brilliant. This actress and character endured to me so much. She was The Mom of that era. Staying at home, tending to her children, paying the bills while her husband was on the road making the money. Constantly propping up and never being valued herself.
I watched the second part of the show with a pit in my stomach that was deliberately placed there by the production itself. Kirsten Sawyer, playing Willy’s other woman, offers a booming laugh that echoes through the theater that at first is coquettish but turns downright wicked as the show draws closer to the end. These little flourishes and moments convey to the audience the discomfort and tension that the Loman family feels constantly.
The show while, well, depressing is completely worth seeing. You will be thinking about it days later, analyzing and letting it roll around in your head. Death of a Salesman is iconic for a reason and Lyric Arts gives us a great reminder why that is.
A little bit about Roxy Orcutt: Roxy Orcutt, a self-professed “Professional Halloween Lover” lives in Anoka with her husband, children and various pets, including a black cat, of course. Roxy runs the website The Halloween Honey, a year-round destination for all things Halloween. www.halloweenhoney.com.