In her 11th year as head of theater at HPU, Joyce Maltby has
produced her favorite play, Death of a Salesman, by her favorite
playwright, Arthur Miller. It opened Nov. 8 and runs through
Dec. 8 at the HPU Theatre on the windward campus.
Maltby compares Death of a Salesman to Ordinary People or American
Beauty. They are the same type of story, she said, and Miller’s
play “was way ahead of its time.”
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Death of a Salesman has a few laughs. It is an intense
story set mostly in the humble New York home of an aging salesman
and his family in the late 1940s, although much of the action
actually takes place in the mind and memory of lead character
Willy Loman, played by Don Pomes, as he deals with present hard
times and past guilt.
“What makes this play great for me is that so many psychological,
sociological, and ideological truths are revealed without it
ever becoming didactic or preachy,” Maltby wrote in her program
notes. “Miller brilliantly presents Willy Loman, his family,
and his world with such precision and clarity that, no matter
how many times we may have seen this play, we still walk away
with new and sharpened insights into the human condition.”
The story begins when Loman’s son Biff, played by Scot Davis,
returns home from a farming job in Texas, work of which his
father was not proud. Biff, a man without a cause, has a tumultuous
relationship with his father for more reasons other than his
job status. As the play develops through Willy’s memory of the
past, these reasons are explained. Willy, and Biff’s brother
Happy, played by Joshua Gulledge, along with their mother, Linda,
played by Sylvia Hormann-Alper, painstakingly deal with their
loved one’s depression and attempted suicides as they deal with
issues of their own.
Handkerchiefs are highly recommended, as the name of the play
hints why. But how does it all go down? Do the Loman’s fix their
issues? Does Biff find his calling? Does anyone achieve happiness?
Find out the answers to these questions and many more, including
some that may impact your own life. Death of a Salesman is a
passionately acted play that leaves the viewer thinking intensely
about many family, issues as it explores situations similar
to those faced by many American families, past and present.
Maltby will direct another family-oriented play, only much
funnier, in the spring: Mornings at Seven by Paul Osborn.