Most people are familiar with Arthur Miller’s famed Death of a Salesman, a play that’s all about despicable (but somewhat sympathetic) Willy Loman (Mike McGee), a failed family man and salesman who is having strange hallucinations and thinking of ending his life. This regretful and introspective tale, which takes place in the 1940s, proves it still has plenty to offer modern viewers in director Randy Jordan’s sure hands at Neuse Little Theatre. Jordan’s lively staging plays out well against beautifully painted backdrops and intricately designed set pieces, also by Jordan, and the cast truly brings this classic to a new and vibrant life.
McGee is appropriately self-loathing and angry in his portrayal of the infamous Willy Loman- and he nails the Brooklyn accent too. Jonathan King and Gus Allen also sparkle in their roles as Willy’s sons, Biff and Happy, respectively.
King, who has been gracing stages in and around the Triangle area a lot lately, is both charming and smarmy in his role as playboy Happy, while Allen’s Biff is complex and intriguing; Allen does an especially good job with the show’s most emotional moments in the second act.
The first act, as is always the case with this play, is a little slow, but it’s all worth it for the beautiful-but-bitter denouement when the struggle of the average man comes to a close and the Loman family’s destruction is realized.
Even before all that unfolds, however, the play’s themes are further explored with appropriate music choices between acts. Another smart choice here is Jordan’s decision to avoid any script-confusion by having his actors don different costumes as the play flashes between hallucination and reality. The costumes- which include a fabulously vintage letterman’s jacket- are also spot-on and really make the 40s-time period come to life.
All in all, NLT’s most recent production is an aesthetically pleasing, well-acted, and intriguing portrayal of a play that’s so well-written and identifiable, it will never lose its appeal.
Neuse Little Theatre presents DEATH OF A SALESMAN at 8 p.m. April 17 and 18 in the former American Legion Hut, 104 S. Front St., Smithfield, North Carolina 27577, at the corner of Front St. and U.S. 70 Business [Market St.].
TICKETS: $13 ($15 walkup).
BOX OFFICE: 919-934-1873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/Death/salesman.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Arthur Miller (American playwright and screenwriter, 1915-2005): (Wikipedia). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Miller (Wikipedia).
Randy Jordan (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/randy.jordan.7 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.