Archikulture Digest

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

By Arthur Miller

Directed by Timothy Williams

Starring Eric Zivot, Daniel Cooksley, Matt Horohoe and Robin Olson

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>

Willy Loman (Zivot) isn’t evil; he’s just been drinking his own bathwater for so long he’s believes his own baloney. In his world “Well Liked” trumps “Employable Skill” and he’s “Well Liked” even if he’s punched out a few clients on sales calls. Willy’s triumphs are self-delusion but a pleasant lie even as his frontal lobes rot out and his career falls in the flusher. Wife Linda (Olson) remains loyal but his boys are a different story: Hap (Cooksley) philanders while stuck clerking on a loading dock and faded jock Biff (Horohoe) bums like Jack Kerouac but has yet to write even The Mediocre American Post Card. Biff’s kleptomania cost him every job he’s ever had and minimum wage is a Holy Grail he’ll never achieve. The boys are home for a visit and thing disintegrate as Willy insults or abuses everyone who loves him. The bad advice he gave his boys comes home to roost: he taught them “Bow To No One” and that’s exactly who wants them – no one. Willy’s only asset is a life insurance policy and if it pays off it’s his only possible positive legacy.

The talk back I attended agreed director Williams made Willy’s story clearer than any previous production any of us had seen. I agree whole heartedly, the complex net of flashbacks and paralleled visions made sense even as the demon of dementia whip saws us through Willy’s story. Willy’s older brother Charley (Mark Edward Smith) left home early; he “entered the jungle at 17 and came out at 24, rich.” If only Willy woulda, coulda, shoulda joined him. We also meet The Woman (Becky Eck), she was Willy’s Boston sleep over companion until Biff caught them boinking when he flunked out of high school. His image of dad was ruined, as was his life. I find Biff the sadder of the two, Willy could believe in his own lies but not Biff, he actually had everything but good advice and walked away, stunned. Zivot’s Willy exuded a slight Grouch Marx aura, he’s got the witty patter and snappy comebacks and without the humor he’s a jerk and it shows. Ms. Olson’ Linda spits fire when she throws her own children out of the house; she’s a mother but before that loyal to her man, and his inflated ego and buys into his personal fantasy. This unhappy family shows its uniquely dirty underwear on a set that appears claustrophobic and flammable, prison bars of plaster lathe defines semitransparent walls and the family negotiates a maze of stairs every scene change. Scenic charge Lisa Buck makes us feel as constricted and hopeless as Willy.

The issues here are layered and interlocked: the failure of the American Dream, the failure of Willy as a father and his boys as sons, the harsh underbelly of American business, the loyalty of post war love and the whole social contract are torn apart and found wanting. If anything, these topics are even more brutal today as that dream downsizes and outsources. Any thought of permanent and responsible employer is just that – a Dream for every American. How’s that going for you these days?

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com


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