Review: ‘Death of a Salesman’ at Curio Theatre Company in Philadelphia

Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, Death of a Salesman, is being given a powerful production at the Curio Theatre Company. In an intimate setting, the themes of  the American Dream, and how it can destroy an entire family when unfulfilled, are still powerful and relevant.

Gay Carducci-Kuhn and Paul Kuhn. Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas.

Gay Carducci-Kuhn and Paul Kuhn. Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas.

Paul Kuhn convincingly portrays the struggling salesman – Willy Loman – and was particularly emotional in his scenes that are filled with excitement and anger. His physical presence was also strong, particularly in moments of silence. A standout scene for Kuhn was his interaction with Howard, played by Robert DaPonte, when asking for a change in his job status, as the power struggle here was apparent and painful.

Aaron Kirkpatrick as Willy’s older son, Biff Loman, gave a commendable performance. The relationships he established were strong, and his internal struggle between finding self-fulfillment and his sense of duty was evident. When he really lets himself feel this struggle, such as in the restaurant scene with his father Willy and his brother Happy (Chase Byrd) his performance was riveting.

Gay Carducci as Willy’s burdened wife, Linda Loman, gave the most endearing performance of the night. While this may appear to be a story about Willy, in many ways it is about her quieter misfortunes as well. Carducci was convincing, displaying the woes of the Loman family from the get-go.

Chase Byrd’s chimes in with an emotional performance of Happy Loman, the youngest Lowman son, who is running interference with the rest of the family, and who wants to make them  happy, but believes he does not need to be truthful to do so. This stands in opposition to his older brother, and the two brothers, played by Kirkpatrick and Byrd, highlight this key difference between them well in each scene where they dominate the stage together.

Brian McCann, as both the neighbor Charley and the memory of Uncle Ben, delivered an outstanding performance. His ability to smoothly transition between these two characters without question was impressive. While Charley is a more understanding and welcoming character, Uncle Ben serves as the shadow of all of Willy’s perceived failures. Despite these differences, McCann was still able to maintain the connecting factor of each character: a sense of pity and judgment upon Willy. Similarly, Robert DaPonte and Colleen Hughes both serve the ensemble well through their many changing hats, as each performed several characters.

Set in the round, Director Dan Hodge artfully used this setting to allow a sense of voyeurism into the crumbling life of the Lomans. He really allowed the actors to inhabit the space in an authentic way, which made it easy for the audience to connect to their own sense of family and home. Individual mention of his artistic team must be given as well for their ability to create a world that enhanced, but did not overpower, the storyline.

Gay Carducci-Kuhn, Aaron Kirkpatrick, Paul Kuhn, and Chase Byrd. Photo by Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas.

Gay Carducci-Kuhn, Chase Byrd, Paul Kuhn, and Aaron Kirkpatrick. Photo by Rebecca Gudelunas.

A special tip of the hat should go to the dramaturg Cissie Reynolds, who helped build an incredible flashback to the fifties through the costumes, designed by Aetna Gallagher, and the set by Steve Hungerford. The lighting and sound, by Tim Martin and Kyle Yackoski respectively, also added great clarity to the muddled mind of Willy. When Willy would mentally lose himself in another time, the lighting followed him through colors. Yackoski’s perfectly-timed sound, in turn, heightened the emotional intensity of the storyline, whichever way it was headed.

I highly recommend a visit to see Curio Theatre Company’s powerful Death of a Salesman. Although Arthur Miller’s play was written nearly sixty years ago, the Curio Theatre Company reminds its audience that its themes of unfulfilled dreams and conflicted families are as poignant now as they ever were.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with an intermission.

Death of a Salesman plays through March 5th, 2016 at the Curio Theatre Company  – 4740 Baltimore Avenue, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 525-1350, or purchase them online.

Note: There is smoking during this production.

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2 Responses to Review: ‘Death of a Salesman’ at Curio Theatre Company in Philadelphia

  1. Flip February 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    Did we see the same show? The costuming was by far the worst part, completely pulling me out of the production from start to finish. This was most apparent in Linda’s initial nightgown/housecoat, which was obviously just a small piece of fabric sewn into the bottom of the robe and a dickie sewn into the top. The “two garments” had no individual movement and every time she wore this I felt embarrassed for the costume designer. Other outfits included modern pieces like shoes and belts that didn’t fit into the era at *all*. It was a deeply careless effort in costuming that ruined the entire show for me.

    • Clay March 2, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

      Wow, harsh much. I saw this show and thought it was excellent. Admittedly i didnt look at the costuming as closely as you did, but to say costumes ruined the show? This is a smaller theater company working on a strict budget, and the acting and narrative honesty were both top notch, as was the humble-but-functional set. I’d say you need to look past one aspect of the show and see the forest, not just individual trees.