|The Concord Journal|
|Cast triumphs over sadness in 'Salesman'|
|By Ellen Denison|
Hopeless, exhausted, and full of an unfortunate combination of self-pride and self-loathing, Willy Loman trudged onto stage last Friday evening and transformed a genial gathering of acquaintances into a humbled crowd of mourners.
In a superior presentation by the Concord Players, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman again did what it always seems to have the power to do: it overwhelmed its audience with a sadness countered only by the valuable lessons it teaches, to value family and what is lasting above all pretense and transience. The very strong and skilled direction of Denis Fitzpatrick, along with the acting talents of this gifted ensemble, made what might have simply been a sad and taxing story into a triumph of presentation.
Miller's familiar tale of the Loman family, headed by the strong-willed Willy. is one of false hopes and soft ambitions. A road salesman of over 35 years, the aging Willy finds no comfort in the efforts of his sons as businessmen or himself as their guide. He has primed them all of their lives with his own tendency to expand and alter the truth, and his own insistence on exaggeration - about everything, from the mundane details of his daily gray life to the "big deal' he incessantly urges them to go after - spells an eventual end to the family. It Is this brief journey from relative, though oppressed stability to the loss of a job, his self- respect, his sanity, and his self respect that we witness in this story. Miller's examination of. the love and hate that can coexist in families is frightening and. all too real.
As Willy, Thomas Large hones perfectly the angels and demons that lurk within this complex character. Large's woeful expressions, effectively subtle inflections of voice, and labored movements convince us of Willy Loman's decline by degrees, and give rise to the intense sympathies that can trail a man even as he falls apart due to his own failings. This is a highly provocative performance of a role that could have easily been delivered with less delicacy and greater reliance on affectation; as perhaps one of the most demanding roles in all of American drama, Willy Loman in Large's care is inspirational.
Supporting Large's central role is the rest of the Loman family and their limited coterie of friends and acquaintances. In to day's parlance they would be considered dysfunctional and enabling: Willy's wife, Linda, played well by Lis Adams, is the silent support but perhaps Willy's greatest critic. She holds the pieces together and, maybe fittingly, darns constantly throughout the play to keep repaired all the fragile and expensive items Willy cannot provide with any constancy, including their sons' esteem.
As Willy's own conscience and greatest hope, son Biff, portrayed with full emotion by the very artistic Players newcomer Roy Souza, is a sole character in whom love and hate merge. Biff keeps his father's greatest secret, and because it is he on whom Willy places the highest expectations he falls the farthest and hardest to the ground as the story closes. Souza manages the demanding psychological trek with confidence and presence.
Joseph Zamparelli Jr. as Biff's brother, Happy, and Lake Bobbitt as Willy's foppish brother, Ben, are perfect as illustrations of how opposite yet loving siblings can be. We meet Ben in the very smoothly executed flashback scenes that are the early signs of Willy's slippage into the past, and it is partially through Ben that the depths of Willy's regrets begin to be understood.