By Arthur Miller
Directed by Michael Menendian
At Raven Theatre
“Be liked and you will never want.”–Willy Loman’s mantra
Chuck Spencer’s tremendous angst based performance as Willy Loman gave new depth to Miller’s classic drama.
Raven Theatre, a treasure chest of outstanding non-Equity Chicago theatre, under Michael Menendian’s tight direction, have mounted a moving, deeply emotional production of Arthur Miller’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize drama, Death of a Salesman. This reverential production looks great on Andrei Onegin’s movable multi-level set.
Mike Tutaj’s video depicts Willy driving his Hudson slowly along winding roads toward home from another long road trip that marks his sales career. The defeated man’s world seems to be collapsing as he retreats into his memories thus keeping his old dreams alive. Willy is the quintessential Everyman whose entire life has been consumed by buying into they myth of the American Dream which states that being well liked and rich is the goal of life.
We see Willy during his last 24 hours as he flashes back and forth between the stark reality of his life falling apart and the past dreams that found him pouring all his attention and energy into Biff, his oldest son. The genius of Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy lies in tight writing and having the story told from Willy’s point of view. Chuck Spencer captures the emotional mood swings and the energetic desire of Willy to be liked by others.
Willy’s is crushed by his personal failure and the revitalization that his golden-boy Biff is a drifting non-focused loser. Miller aptly demonstrates both the affluent side and the defeated side of the quest for riches and social status.
Death of a Salesman’s Loman family contains Linda (JoAnn Montemurro) the doting wife who shields Willy from the real world. Happy (Greg Caldwell) is the womanizer youngest son stuck in a mediocre job and Biff (Jason Huysman) is the 34 year old son crushed when he finds out the his father isn’t true blue. He is trapped in believing past lies and expectations. He moral cowardice overwhelms him.
This carefully constructed masterpiece flows beautifully as the emotional impact and dramatic tensions build through Spencer and Huysman deft performances. Even though I’ve seen (and read) Death of a Salesman several times, I’m always choked-up at the end. The entire audience at Raven Theatre was deeply moved by this wonderful production. Raven Theatre once again proves that they sure know how to mount classic American theatre. This is a wonderful moving production of a classic, don’t miss it!
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL, ca;; 773-338-2177, tickets $25 – $30, www.raventheatre.com, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.