MONDAY MATINEE: Death of a Salesman

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT http://www.sappycritic.com.

I’m exhausted. Part of it was the drive home from Dayton, part of it is that the play is so long, but mostly its because Scott Stoney took us on an emotionally exhausting journey tonight in “Death of a Salesman.”

My friend – and usual theater cohort – Connie was unable to go with me tonight because she had tickets to some sort of Timpani concert. Whatever drums were banged on, none of them were hit harder than the hearts of the audience at Wright State tonight. And given the gravity and depressing subject matter, I am confident that Connie picked the right event for her. It was definitely a hard play to watch.

Luckily almost all of the performances were not hard to watch.

Scott Stoney, a professional actor, and Lee Merrill, another pro, carried the rest of the cast (all Wright State students) beautifully. I could watch Stoney read the newspaper and be entertained and Merrill conveyed such depth of emotion as the long suffering wife and mother in this Arthur Miller classic. Seriously, they put on a masters class of stage acting tonight and I hope the students in the audience were paying attention. They showed us all that you do not need to over-do it to get your point across and that connecting to the material and letting it roll of your tongue is how you draw people into the performance. I never felt like they were trying to act. They were Willie and Linda Loman and I bought every minute of their performances.

The students – whom we should expect to outshone by the pros – largely held their own. For instance, I believe that Mathys Herbert (Bernard) is a force to be reckoned with especially when there is someone to help him learn to reign in his natural charisma. He was excellently understated here as was the always engaging Jenyth Rosati. Both have such energy and Rosati especially just oozes class.

I also enjoyed the all too brief appearances of Justin King as “Stanley” and Tyler Edwards as “Howard.” King had very little to work with but there is something captivating about him every time I’ve seen him. I previously saw Edwards in the StuCab show last year and I had memories of him as Alex Trebeck (in Celebrity Jeopardy) tonight as he played Willie’s young boss with some of the way he delivered his lines but like with King there is something special about him. I can’t wait to see how both of these actors mature in their next roles, especially when given some more challenging material to work with.

Zach Schute did a fine job as “Happy Loman” and he had the sleazy playboy routine down pat. There were a few times in the beginning of the play where he seemed in a hurry but as he settled down later on and when he had more emotion to play off of with the other actors, he was excellent. Patrick Ross as “Biff” was phenomenal in his big scene towards the end of the play. I would have interpreted several of his lines differently throughout the show (in terms of affectation and inflection; sometimes it didn’t feel as natural as I would have liked and in my very humble opinion this was amplified when working with such a natural pro like Stoney) but seriously, he had moments where he was emotionally compelling as any actor I’ve seen.

The set was beautiful, the lighting and sound design were all as wonderful as I’ve come to expect from WSU productions, and I enjoyed myself very much. This is an ambitious play, with lots of words and ideas and themes. I’m glad I made the trip.

 

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