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Review: DEATH OF A SALESMAN at The Black Rep at The Edison Theater on the Washington University Campus

Review: DEATH OF A SALESMAN at The Black Rep at The Edison Theater on the Washington University Campus

The production runs through January 29, 2023.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN is widely regarded to be one of the best plays of the 20th Century and Arthur Miller's best work. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the original 1942 production also won the Tony Award for Best Play. It tells the life story of 63-year-old Willy Loman through flashbacks driven by his cognitive intrusions as his mental state deteriorates and he contemplates the involuntary end of his career and his failures in life.

In The Black Rep's current production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, director Jacqueline Thompson helms an emotional narrative that is propelled by excellent performances from a stellar cast. She uses Dunsi Dai's and Lily Thomasic's multi-leveled static set design effectively to intersperse Willy's flashbacks from the current day. Thompson paces Miller's lengthy script as briskly as possible without hurrying her actors or diminishing the story. The current Broadway offering of DEATH OF A SALESMAN clocks in at three hours and ten minutes. Thomson's directorial vision effectively tells the story in less than three hours and still allows the material to pack its emotional wallop.

Ron Himes delivers a mesmerizing performance as Willy Loman. The audience feels Lowman's descent into despair thanks to Himes' physical and vocal acting choices. From the opening scene you feel Lowman's mental struggles and dark loss of reality that is plaguing him. Himes' effective portrayal is like witnessing a train derailment in slow motion.

In the first scene is apparent that Willy's wife Linda, deftly played by Velma Austin, is acutely aware of Willy's suicidal tendencies and she compassionately attempts to help and protect him. Austin paints Linda as a protective and loyal loving wife who yearns to be Willy's savior even at the cost of the relationship with her two adult children. Austin's best work is when she vehemently expresses her disappointment in her young adult children. Her exceptional work raises the emotional stakes in this production to the level of hopelessness that a spouse experiences when trying to save their dying partner.

Chauncy Thomas' scene chewing turn as Biff exceptionally conveys both his love for his father and his disappointment in his father's choices. Thomas, working along side Himes, elevates the palpable tension to a level that is seismic. His magnificent performance realistically conveys Biff's anger at Willy and the fiery relationship he now has an adult-child with his aging father.

The remaining cast all deliver convincing performances to tell this timeless story. Christian Kitchen, in his portrayal of Happy, holds his own when on stage in a role that is written with less substance than the roles of Willy, Linda and Biff. Kitchen makes his presence known in a strong performance each time he shares the stage with the other actors. The remaining cast includes Jacob Cange, Emily Raine-Blythe, Jim Read, Kevin Brown, Franklin Killian, Taijha Silas, Zahria Moore and Carmia Imani.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN is one of the classic masterpieces of the American Theatre. The Black Rep's production is superb. DEATH OF A SALESMAN plays the Edison Theatre on the Washington University Campus through January 29th. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit theblackrep.org.



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