I have a small role (Charley) in the London Community Players' production of Death of a Salesman, so I claim no credit for this. And I make no claim to being unbiased, though I do my best.
This production is one of the best you could ever see. I'll stack it up against any professional production of Death of a Salesman. And last night's performance was the best yet.
The production takes place in Procunier Hall of The Palace Theatre, a too-small standard black-box-type performance venue, but Jason Rip (director), Steven Mitchell (tech and staging consultant), and Tia Morin (stage manager) have worked tirelessly and flexibly to bring off a tour de force in the venue.
The more we work on the play, the more I fail to see it as a critique of the American/Canadian dream or an attack on greed, success, or materialism. Rather, I see it as an exploration of the early onset of dementia in a man who never faced reality, about himself or much else.
To me, the hero of the play is Biff, who finally comes to grips with who he is and who his father was, after years and years of anguish about it all.... sort of a prolonged identity crisis.
Sure, Charley is a kind, sympathetic, generous guy and in some sense is a testament to the American/Canadian dream that success comes to those who work hard and who are honest and kind. Also his son, Bernard, who grows from being a nerdy (anemic, Willy calls him) kid to become a hot-shot lawyer arguing a case before the supreme court, is something of a hero. But they aren't the real heroes of the play.
Willy, of course, is a tragic hero. You want to grab him, shake him, tell him to stop lying to himself and everyone around him.
Linda (Willy's wife) is a tragic heroine. She lives with Willy's lies, trying to put bandaids on major wounds everywhere, going along with him and not forcing or even asking him to face reality very often. She keeps Willy from going to Alaska, and I'm not sure but what I wish Willy had gone there. Yet there's a good chance that if they had gone to Alaska, Willy still would have been a failure. After all, he was rejected and abandoned by his father and his older brother and likely would not have dealt with the challenges of Alaska any better than he dealt with the challenges of being a salesman in a changing market.
No matter whether you agree with my take on the play, you will be in awe of the performances. The audiences clearly are moved by the performances, and people have used phrases like "stunningly good" or "brilliant" or "mesmerizing" or "deep and moving" when talking about the show.
Rob Faust (Willy) and Deb Mitchell (Linda) are simply amazing, having captured the essence of their characters [not to mention having learned such taxing roles and the physical strain of actually performing them]. And the support from James Roberts (Biff) and Marshall Lemon (Happy), Willy and Linda's two sons, is terrific. Beyond those four main characters, the rest of us have supporting roles. And, to tell the truth, everyone in every role does a tremendous job.
See this play. It is one of the best productions you will ever see of Death of a Salesman.
- September 21 2pm
- September 24-27 8pm
- For tickets, call 519-432-1029