Death of a Salesman Review

A doomed father’s world crumbles as his past intertwines with his reality


Death of a Salesman is a play about lost dreams, and false ambitions. The story follows Willy Loman (Joseph Grant), who is a 60-year-old, ever failing salesman whose hallucinations and memories leak into his own reality in his final days.

His mind takes over his life more and more ever since his eldest son, Biff Loman (Tim Samland), a 34-year-old slacker, has been living in their home for the past few weeks. Willy had extraordinarily high expectations for Biff, and  his son hasn’t met a single one of them.

Willy’s wife, Linda Loman (Kathi Aleman), and his youngest son, Happy “Hap” Loman (Gabe Hacker), are always trying to keep up a good mood and positive outlook towards the day for the sake of Willy. As Hap puts it, “He’s always happy when he’s looking forward to something!”

Death of a Salesman is truly a story of a man’s desperate pursuit for the “American Dream,” and how he was always blind to the long gone happiness of his family. On the surface, the story shows how Biff is nearing middle-age, and is still unemployed, it is implied that this was of his own doing, which it, for the most part, is true. But as the tale unfolds, Biff’s failings seem to have also been of his own father’s constant pressure and expectations.

There are no “villains” in Death of a Salesman, only people with contradicting hopes and rationales. Willy’s boss, Howard (Eric Cuestas-Thompson), is visually shown to be a cigar chomping executive, but in truth is very reasonable and has valid cause to do what he does.

The younger memory of Biff, who was a football star, has a nerdy helper named Bernard (Charlie Stevens), which may lead people to think that Biff was a bully to Bernard. Bernard also turns out to have grown up to be a successful businessman, which may also lead some to think that Bernard has now become a backstabbing “suit” towards everyone. But in reality Bernard was the young Biff’s friend, and the grown up Bernard is kind to Willy when he meets him.

The audience had a feeling of pity for Willy as he loses his mind scene by scene. But through this loss, the audience sees how this forlorn salesman isn’t a saint by any means.

Willy’s life has always been worsened by his stubborn and short-fused personality, and his constant reluctance to accept the truth.

The play cleverly transitions from Willy’s real life, to his dream-like delusions. Whatever the lighting is for his reality, the lighting for his memories will contrast it. For example, his dimly lit home is changed to bright greens and beiges when his memories first fill his eyes.

“I’ve been racing the junkyard all my life!” said Willy, and Willy’s reality does comes crashing down more than once on him in both his final days and in his past.

He lashes out at others when he hears voices of his past criticising him, and he tries to put on a persona that he is a well respected salesman who is known throughout many cities, when in truth, Willy barely comes home with any money at all.

The main actor’s performances were particularly spectacular. Grant--a 50 year veteran of theatre--plays Willy, and portrays this mentally ill and stressed father incredibly, showing a great spectrum of emotion as this elderly man jumps from joyfulness to confusion to anger to regret.

Aleman, who plays Willy’s wife Linda, gives a dramatic performance of a wife and mother who is trying to deny the truth of her husband’s mental and emotional state, even as Willy yells and loses his temper at her. Though her near constant state of distraught and crying may feel a little wary after a while, it is all understandable given this wife’s situation.

Samland, who plays Biff, blows the roof off as he plays an emotionally pent-up bum who’s outbursts fill the room with tension, anger, and sadness; all at once.

When Biff breaks down to and because of his father, which is a common occurrence, Samland shows how a son who is cracking down under the disappointment of his father looks like, after a lifetime of being his father’s only light.

Hacker, who plays Hap, also gives great performance as the younger brother whose goals in life are never really clear. Ranging from wanting to hook up with “gals” to wanting to keep peace between his family. He’s always coming up with big plans and dreams to get his brother back on his feet, but neither really go through with any of them based on their own shortcomings.

The Lakewood Playhouse’s portrayal of Death of a Salesman is a well produced, engaging story that captivates its audience with a sad tale of a lonely man and his troubled family.