"Death of a Salesman,” The Grand Theatre, through March 23, $24-$9, 801-957-3322 or the-grand.org
Willy Loman hasn’t aged a day.
“Death of a Salesman” premiered on Broadway in 1949, earning Arthur Miller a prominent place in theater history. But its themes are as relevant and fresh today as when the acclaimed playwright wrote his unsettling drama.
“Success,” as it is prevalently defined, remains alluring and for many always just out of reach. When Willy exhorts his sons to “be well liked and you will never want,” it’s hard not to be reminded of pointless Facebook posts being “liked.”
Willy is the American dreamer fighting a losing battle with material fortune.
The Grand Theatre is staging one of the great American plays of the 20th century — perhaps the great American play. It's poignant to be sure, and also genuinely satisfying.
Under Mark Fossen’s assured direction, finely crafted performances add to the captivating, universal appeal of "Death of a Salesman." This is weighty material but the pace never drags. The audience not only witnesses the turmoil of the characters, we truly feel it.
Absent from the stage for five years, Richard Edward Scott is heart-rending as Willy, and his multiple years of acting experience are deeply evident. He masterfully commands in the formidable role. His Willy is not just angry or confused; Scott brings subtle dignity to Willy without, thankfully, an overdose of rage. In one of his most impressive scenes, the audience sees Willy slowly crumble as he bounces into his boss' office seeking a favor only to discover he’s being fired. To each line, including the well-known “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away; a man is not a piece of fruit,” there’s sincerity and grit.
Daniel Beecher as Biff Loman and Rusty Bringhurst as his brother Happy expertly navigate the roles. Both are as believable as father-worshiping teenagers in the flashback scenes as they are as 30-somethings viewing their embittered father.
As Willy’s loving and forever-forgiving wife, Anita Booher is a bit too subdued to make a striking impact, but her graveside speech still punctuates Willy’s hapless life.
The Grand production of “Death of a Salesman” is emotionally charged and beautiful. Classic plays don’t grow old. They continue to illuminate and enrich, more so when expertly produced.