Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” written nearly 70 years ago, is not merely a drama by a Jewish playwright about a Jewish family. Its themes are as relevant today as they were in 1949. And it resonates with all of us.
“The play is grounded in the specificity of mid-century American experience, but it also aims for and achieves universality,” says director Brian McEleney. “Willy Loman is all of us as we struggle for human dignity. I hope audiences will watch this story of the American Everyman, and see America both as it was and as it still is.”
Trinity Rep’s masterful production features Stephen Berenson in the leading role of Willy Loman, a washed-up salesman from Brooklyn. His wife Linda is played by the veteran Actress Phyllis Kay, and she is simply superb in the role. In addition, Brown/Trinity Rep student actors Matt Lytle and Billy Hutto round out the cast as the couple’s sons Biff and Happy.
The play is being paired with “Skeleton Crew,” another poignant play about the American dream and finding one’s place in this world. I recommend both productions, but strongly encourage Voice readers to see “Salesman” before it closes next month. You will witness a timeless drama that will prompt you to reflect on your own family dynamics, hopes, insecurities and expectations.
“We can all relate to the sense of dread that comes with knowing how easily we, as workers, are replaced,” says Trinity’s Artistic Director Chris Columbus. “We all see how time passes, and passes us by, before we are even aware that it is happening. We all witness how the dreams of prosperity and progress so easily evaporate in front of our eyes.”
Some may remember the 1979 production of “Salesman” that was directed by Larry Arrick and starred Ford Rainey, Carmen de Lavallade, Richard Jenkins and Dan Von Bargen. Director McEleney was just out of drama school when he saw the performance. “It was awe-inspiring: passionate, personal and raw. Magnificent actors baring their souls. I hope we can live up to their example almost 40 years later.”
Brian, I do believe you have done just that.
“Death of a Salesman” runs through Nov. 26. Tickets are on sale now at trinityrep.com, by calling 401-351-4242 or at the theater’s box office at 201 Washington St., Providence.
KARA MARZIALI (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the director of communications for the Jewish Alliance and a theater aficionado.