Outstanding Production of Arthur Miller’s Classic–Death of a Salesman–at Novato Theater Co.

Novato Theater Company continues its entertaining and provocative 2017-2018 season with the Arthur Miller classic Death of a Salesman, one of the greatest plays in American Theater. The production is directed by Carl Jordan and produced by Candace Brown and Nick Moore.

Director Jordan explains, “I became attracted to the plays of Arthur Miller when I saw the Tony Award Winning, Ivo van Hove production of a View from the Bridge. This minimalist production was easily one of the most entertaining and evocative pieces of theater I have seen in a long time.  I started studying Miller’s plays and read Death of a Salesman last year. Yes, I know this is blasphemy-because I do have multiple degrees in theater, but I just had never read the play.  I felt it was from another time and place. I had just watched the movie production, so now I sat down to study the play. It was incredibly difficult to read at first. The more I read, the more beauty, artistry and complexity of this play arose and seeped into my consciousness. There’s a reason this play has won so many awards including the Pulitzer Prize. It is because it is a beautiful work of art that transcends time…Yes, it discusses some dark subjects-but the stories are alive in our lives right now! It is beautifully written and features incredibly talented artists, and is wonderfully acted as well.”

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright, Arthur Miller.  It was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.  Premiering on Broadway in February, 1949 it ran for 742 performances and was revived on Broadway four times, winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

Willy Loman (Joe Winkler) returns home after a business trip is cancelled. Worried over Willy’s state of mind and a recent car accident, his wife Linda (Madeleine Ashe) suggests that he ask his boss Howard (Michael Remak) to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son Biff (Chris Ginesi) has yet to make good on his life.  Despite Biff’s promising showing as an athlete in high school, he failed in mathematics and was unable to enter a university.

Biff and his brother Happy (Neil Hollander), who is temporarily staying with Willy and Linda after Biff’s unexpected return from the West, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father’s mental degeneration, which they have witnessed in the form of his constant indecisiveness and daydreaming about the boys’ younger days. Willy walks in and shows his anger at how they have never amounted to anything.  In an effort to pacify their father, Biff and Happy tell their father that Biff plans to make a business proposition the next day.

As the story progresses, the cast brings each character to life with five star acting. In a rare example of local theater, this talented cast surpasses expectations. Jordan typically specializes in comedy, yet he shows his dramatic skill with this production. I wish this review had been completed sooner. Unfortunately the production has ended, but I wanted to give credit to the outstanding direction and cast for a Broadway-level show.

Coming up next at Novato Theater Company will be The Fantasticks, April 5-29, 2018 with music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones, directed by Larry Williams and musical direction by David Shepard.