More than anything, “Death of a Salesman” portrays a family trying desperately to hold onto their dreams of personal importance and a brighter future. These questions of legacy are largely addressed in the character of Willy, who regularly repeats to his children. Happy and Biff, just how well known and liked he is, as well as his motivation for becoming a salesman: old Dave Singleman, a salesman who, at 84, was able to make a living by simply calling his loyal buyers from his room. When the old man died, hundreds of salesman and buyers attended his funeral — just the kind of “noble death” that Willy longs to achieve.
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks’ (MSIP) production of the Arthur Miller play,“Death of a Salesman,” premiered for its opening run Thursday, Jan. 25. The show stars MSIP regulars Miles Duffy and Joe Faifer as Happy and Biff, as well as visiting actors John Hosking and Jeanie Cooper as Willy and Linda. The main and supporting cast all put on wonderful performances, convincingly portraying the various jumps between the present action and Willy’s memories that haunt him throughout the play. The transitions were incredibly smooth, flowing between past and present without any noticeable hiccups in the narration.
Even the lighting of the show was handled to reflect the changes in Willy’s mental states. As the play begins, the audience is introduced to a quiet house in the middle of the night. The lights are dim, and blue is the predominant color. As Willy loses his bearings and his mind regresses, the lights soften and become warmer, suffused with yellows and oranges. Willy’s children appear, dressed as high schoolers toting sports gear instead of a pair of men in their mid-thirties. These initial flashbacks are heartwarming, nostalgic glimpses of a happy family and a father who is adored by his children. The truth of the present, however, is abundantly clear in the constant tension and bickering that occurs between Willy and Biff.
As a whole, “Death of a Salesman” presents a thoughtful, well-done performance that should absolutely be considered by anyone. The show runs for one more weekend at the Black Box Theater on campus, Thursday the 1st through Sunday the fourth. Thursday through Saturday performances begins at 7:30 p.m., with a 3:30 matinee on Sunday. Tickets are ten dollars for students and can be purchased on the Shakespeare in the Parks website. shakespearinthepark.org