Thursday, November 27, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: "Death Of A Salesman"

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A revival of Arthur Miller's classic "Death Of A Salesman" debuted on Broadway Thursday night, with Philip Seymour Hoffman taking on the role of Willy Loman in a production helmed by acclaimed director Mike Nichols. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

It's the fifth Broadway production of the landmark play. But this time Mike Nichols went back to the drawing board with some of the original 1949 designs -- a brilliant move that somehow breathes new life into the 63-year-old drama. And while I've seen all of the Broadway revivals, with this inspired production it's as if seeing the play for the first time.

Despite its age, the play has always remained a universal but it seems fresher now and even more relevant.

When it premiered in 1949, it was hailed for its innovative theatricality and emotional intensity. With Jo Mielziner's spectral set design, we are able to relive the thrill of that first audience experiencing the play in all its organic, surreal beauty. Adding to the spell, Alex North’s original music, so evocatively haunting.

Nichols ratcheted up the intensity level as well by shifting much of the focus to Willy Loman's volatile relationship with his son Biff. The themes of self-delusion and the myth of the American dream get quite a workout with these two.

Philip Seymour Hoffman captures all the dimensions of Willy's anguished fall and Andrew Garfield as the desperately weary Biff matches him perfectly. It's devastating and at the same time cathartic to watch them battle with such ferocity.

All of the performances are superb, displaying a raw naturalism that counterpoints the play's dreamlike state. The effect is jarring and to paraphrase Miller, "ominously real."

As Linda, Willy's long-suffering wife, Linda Emond delivers a subdued yet powerful portrait of devotion. Finn Wittrock as Happy and Bill Camp's Charley are especially impressive.

The genius of "Death Of A Salesman" lies in the way that Miller was able to make each of us identify with the tragically conflicted Willy. Nichols’ outstanding production provides a mirror with which to see Willy’s shattered dreams within ourselves.

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