DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Continues impacting its audience, 55 years later
By Iride Aparicio
Photos by: SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY
l-r JEFFREY BRIAN ADAMS as “Happy,”RANDALL KING as Willy Loman and DANNY JONES As Biff in DEATH OF A SALESMAN
SAN JOSÉ, CA – As the salesman, Willy Loman will continue, for years to come, carrying his heavy suitcases on his hands and re-telling his tales of grandeur to the audience. Willy, the lead character in ARTHUR MILLER’s Pulitzer and Tony ® award-winning American Classical play, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, is so true to life as the delusional sixty years old salesman who believes that he is liked and wanted by all the other men in his territory, because he is unable to accept the fact that because of his age and selling record he is on the way out, still touches our hearts.
So, through many years, we have seen Willy standing on different stages, looking haggard, his back curbed, his hat on his hand, talking to himself about memories that drift from the present to the past. And as we watch him, little by little Willy, the character, becomes alive, as it first happened on Broadway in l949 when the play was first presented on the stage.
During Sunday’s (April 12) matinee of the SAN JOSÉ STAGE COMPANY, which is celebrating the centennial of playwright ARTHUR MILLER with the presentation of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, directed by KENNETH KELLEHER, the character of Loman, (who some critics believe was named so because he is a “low man,” low in self esteem, and feeling low in his role of bread winner, came back to life again in a masterful interpretation of his demeanor, the pace of his voice, his body movements, and an overall impersonation of the character by actor RANDALL KING.
There, on the round stage, Willy was standing again, carrying two old suitcases. He had returned home after getting confused in the freeway, admitting to Linda (LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE) his wife, that he had to return because his mind was playing tricks on him. He felt, that he was driving his old car, and he was admiring the scenery instead of looking at the road. And understanding Linda, finds Willy a reason for everything: He is tired, maybe his eyes are failing him, perhaps he should ask his boss to be transfer to New York instead of traveling, because Linda is unable to admit to Willy that she knows that all his previous “accidents” on the road have not been “accidents,” that she is fully aware that he has been trying, deliberately, to kill himself.
The play allows the audience to share 24 hours of Willy’s life. And in that time, the audience get to know him well, and even realize that the whole play revolves around his actions. The audience also realizes that Willy’s actions are always motivated by the reactions (to Willy) of the other characters. As a man, Willy needs to be liked. He craves the approval of other people. The reason why he brags, is because he is really a very insecure man whose personality is determined by how other people react to his presence. Most of his tales of past triumphs as a salesman are faked. He had never felt successful, maybe because his definition of "success" is based on money. He is always comparing himself with his brother, who is rich. After Biff,( DANNY JONES) his older son was born, he transferred his ambition for success to his son and began living his life through him. Biff was a good football player. He had been offered three scholarships by three different Universities. So, vicariously, through Biff, Willy will go to college. and will have the fame and money that he always craved for.
RANDALL KING as Willy and DANNY JONES as Biff
But when, during his trip to Boston, Biff discovers that his father is human, makes human errors and has faults, and when in a but of rage calls him “You fake, you phony little fake,” his words hurt Willy to the core. because he needs to be liked, respected by his son. He was unable to face his failures. He simply solved his problems by re-creating, in his sick mind, the memories of glories in his past, Until that day, Willy was living his life through this young man (Biff). presenting himself as successful, as the “perfect husband and father” Now he realizes that he had lost forever the respect of his son, that the only thing his son learned from him was “To brake the rules,” by taking things from others that did not belong to him.
But there is another son, Happy (JEFFREY BRIAN ADAMS) his younger son, and Happy is much more like him. Happy believes in success, and he is successful. He works, makes good money, is independent and has his own apartment. Also by “exaggerating” the truth (like his father) he gets women to believe that he is a "big shot." He seduces them and then leaves them after that.
And while Billy had an ungrateful boss in young Howard Wagner, (WILL SPRINGHORN, Jr.) who after 34 years of working with his father and helping found the company prefers to dismiss him instead of allowing him to work in New York City, he also has a wonderful friend in Charley (MICHAEL BELLINO) who lends him money, visits him, plays cards with him and even offer him a job when he needed it.
And with realistic interpretations of their different roles, and a masterful interpretation of Loman, Biff and Linda, that afternoon, the actors move the story focused in “The American Dream,” that every man, at that time (the l940’s) pursue and tried to accomplish: To get a job, to buy a house, to get a car, and to have a family.”
And after many years watching Willy Loman in different productions, I just came to the realization that he was blind. Like everybody else around him at that time, Willy was pursuing the “American Dream” but sadly, he associated the "dream" with money and fame, and compared himself with his brother Ben (KEVIN BLACKTON) who one day entered the “jungle” of Africa and came out rich with diamonds. Willy never credited himself for what he did: He had supported his family for 34 years. his home was almost paid for, he had a car, a wife who adored him, and two sons who after finding themselves, as Willy never did, were about to start a new adventure in their lives. Willy had realized the "American Dream." Had he only ignored what other people thought about him and learned to appreciate himself for what he had accomplished instead of comparing himself constatly with his brother, the story of his life would have ended in a different way.
Here we should add that as presented by THE STAGE, this version of DEATH OF A SALESMAN is remarkable.
LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE, RANDALL KING, DANNY JONES and
JEFFREY BRIAN ADAMS standing on the back as the Loman family.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN will play at THE STAGE 490 South First St. in San José, CA 95113 until April 26. to get tickets: go to: www.thestage.org or Call 408-283-7142