Live the life of a salesman
You too may have seen Arthur Miller’s classic play Death of a Salesman many times. You too may leave the Redtwist’s ribbon of a performance space trying to tame the vortex of emotions unleashed in the last few hours, and think— this was the first time though, that you actually lived it.
From the moment Brian Parry as Willy Loman comes onstage to begin living out the great story of the salesman’s unraveling, we latch. Parry’s Loman is at once someone we want to distance ourselves from—like his son Biff (played by Matt Edmonds), protect—like his steadfast wife Linda (played by Jan Ellen Graves), or perhaps distract in hopes of easing his roiling within—like his ever trying to please him son Happy (played by Benjamin Kerberger) ,or his neighbor and friend Charley (played by Adam Bitterman).
Death of a Salesman script seen anew
While other productions of this play seem to emphasize more the difficulties of a salesman past his prime, Parry’s performance keeps Loman’s flaming flaws the centerstage focus.
Not that we don’t sympathize with Willy even when he so disappoints us. Miller’s script demands that we do and the actors give every line that speaks to Willy’s humanity the gravitas that is their due. We hear it first so clearly from Graves’as Linda reminding her sons that their father is human. And, then later we hear it with the force of kettle drums when Willy’s friend and neighbor Charley, gives his graveside summation of the life, and death, of a salesman. This is a soliloquy delivered so naturally by Bitterman that you walk away wondering if he is acting as this New Yorker wise man or if he is him.
Feel the Diss
When Bitterman delivers these so memorable lines, you too may have your repressed memories of when someone summarily dismissed your person and humanity come to the fore. It’s as if we, the audience, go through a short course on method acting in our seats.
Improbable Redtwist Theatre Space
Steve Scott’s direction has turned the improbable Redtwist performance space into an asset. There are many times when you will be closer to the actor delivering his or her lines than the character with whom he or she is speaking. (Tip: For those of us with bad necks, a few pre-performance yoga stretches might be in order.)
These are powerhouse performances, with the possible exception of the re-enactments of childhood scenes where the decision to simplify many of the characters into more cartoon-like stereotypes somewhat puzzles. On the other hand, this perhaps helps us to cherish their nuanced performances by these actors in their adult character roles—the two sons portrayed by Matt Edmonds and Benjamin Kirbirger and Devon J. Minerfroh as Charley’s son Bernard.