Review: ‘Death of a Salesman’ at Ford’s Theatre

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It’s hard to believe that nearly 70 years have passed since Arthur Miller penned his Pulitzer-winning masterpiece, Death of a Salesman; the perennially relevant social drama seems as timely as ever in this powerful Ford’s Theatre revival, touching on universally-relatable themes of family conflict, marital dissonance and mental debility with whetted theatricality.

Kimberly Schraf (Linda) and Craig Wallace (Willy Loman) in the Ford’s Theatre production of Death of a Salesman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Incisively navigated and fluidly staged by Director Stephen Rayne on Tim Mackabee’s inventive set (with floating windows, exposing a two-story family home and a prominent antique refrigerator), every performance by the stellar 14-member multi-cultural cast, is superbly consummated at all turns, illuminating a pivotal 24 hours of 63-year-old Willy Loman (formidably portrayed by Craig Wallace) with an eternally steadfast wife (exceptionally depicted by Kimberly Schraf) who reflects on his life as a father, husband, and traveling salesman on the cusp of retirement in 1948 Brooklyn.

Though the production spans close to three hours, each scene moves swiftly with John Gromada’s splendid sound design and original score, sculpting the play’s ebb and flow, effortlessly shifting between time zones, particularly as Willy’s mental state begins to unravel, and he struggles to discern truth from self-disillusionment and endeavors to reconcile the optimism of his youth with his unfulfilled aspirations by placing his last hope of success in his two sons, Biff (persuasively played by Thomas Keegan) and Happy (reliably rendered by Danny Gavigan with hearty doses of levity as he echoed in Everyman’s recent production).

“With Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller wanted to write a play that transcended time and place and was universal in its appeal,” said Rayne. “In the 70 years since the play opened, Willy Loman’s fervent emphasis on the importance of being ‘well liked’ and our compulsion to measure someone’s worth by the size of their paycheck seems to have become more pronounced in American culture.”

Ingeniously interweaving illusions, flashbacks and fantasies with reality, which is expertly reinforced with Pat Collins’ lighting, Ford’s Theatre’s emotionally-enriched production highlights the “everyman” in Miller’s story that speaks to each of us.

Running Time: Approximately 3 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Death of a Salesman plays through October 22, 2017 at Ford’s Theatre – 511 Tenth Street, NW, in Washington DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 347-4833, or purchase them online.

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