Monday, September 26, 2011

"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller

"Death of a Salesman"
by Arthur Miller
a full cast audio performance
starring Stacy Keach and Jane Kaczmarek
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
approx 2 hours

Once again I'm going back to my theatre roots and listening to an audio performance of a classic play, "Death of a Salesman."  While in college I acted out a scene from this play and from that moment I fell in love with it.  Not sure why, I mean, it's not really a happy play, but something about this play grabbed me.  I think mainly because it was the first play I'd read and performed and that it seemed to tell it straight.  Life does not always turn out like you want. 

When I ran across this audio performance from L.A. Theatre Works (LATW), I knew I had to give it a listen mainly because of Stacy Keach.  He's a subtle actor yet can give you a larger than life performance.  In this performance he knocked it out of the ball park.  I had seen a version of the play on television with Dustin Hoffman as Willie Loman and thought at that time I had just seen the only person who I could ever picture as Arthur Miller's salesman.  But now I have to shift that to Keach.  Mr. Keach performed the role to perfection.  As you can see, I was highly impressed.

Everyone in this performance was great, Jane Kaczmarek (you know, the mom in TV's "Malcolm in the Middle") did a wonderful job as Willie's wife, Linda, but let's face it the play is about Willie Loman, and the star shined brightly.  Actually while were talking about being impressed, this makes the 4th or 5th performance from LATW that I've heard and each time they impress me, not only with excellent casting, but the productions are superb.   Each release places the listener directly into the audience of the performance, with excellent sound effects, music and just a dash of the audience response to remind you you are listening to a performance. 

"Death of a Salesman" is the story of an aged salesmen who was always wanting the best for his family.  He wanted his boys to grow up and be well liked, not just liked, but WELL liked.  The problem is that the reality of Willie Loman's life never really matched up to his dreams.  He is full of regrets, such as missed opportunities, never knowing his father and his son, Biff who was a High School football star that could have gone on to play in college.  The problem is that Biff flunked out of Math and refused to go to summer school and never went to college. 

The play takes place in Willie & Linda's home when Biff is back from "out west."  Hap, the other son, who is trying to follow in his father's footsteps still lives near to home, is also visiting.  Willie cuts short his trip from Boston because he nearly runs off the road while driving.  Wille has lately become a victim to his mind wandering and he starts revisiting his memories out loud.  

The play is told with a constant barrage of flashbacks from Willie's point of view as he begins to see the reality of his dream.  Linda tells her sons of Willie's troubles and that she believes he is trying to kill himself.  It all builds up to a scene, where to make their father happy, Biff and Hap attempt to go into business together, but reality comes crashing down on everyone leaving a tragic ending. 

This performance from L.A. Theatre Works is superb in every manner and this classic play is one that should not be missed.

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