By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
This Salesman is worth seeing for DeMunn; he's that good. But surrounding and supporting him are 11 other fine actors, some DTC company members, some drama students from Southern Methodist University. Under the direction of Amanda Dehnert, this cast does surgically precise, intensely connected ensemble work.
Miller's play presents staggering challenges. Willy's sons Biff and Happy (played by DTC company actors Matthew Gray and Cedric Neal) jump in flashbacks from their 30s to their teens. Willy and wife Linda (DTC company member Sally Nystuen Vahle) also turn back the clock, looking and behaving 20 years younger than in most of the play. Vahle handles the transitions particularly well, taking a fresh, quiet but firm approach as the one member of the Loman family who lives in the here and now. In the "attention must be paid" speech, pleading for some kindness toward Willy, she is like no other Linda I've ever seen. She's better.
The only gimmick here is the "colorblind casting" of African-American actors as son Happy and as Willy's wealthy older brother Ben (Hassan El-Amin). But Miller himself claimed that these characters exist only in Willy's mind. So why not make them literally and visually "other"?
Moby-Dick is performed again at 7:30 p.m., May 8 and 13; and 2 p.m., May 16 at the Winspear Opera House. Call 214-443-1000.
Death of a Salesman continues at the Wyly Theatre through May 16. Call 214-880-0202.
As a timeless piece of theater, everything Death of a Salesman says about the empty dreams and mental crackups of men like Willy Loman, and the frustrations sons like Biff have with a father's expectations, still resonates. It is the kind of play, as Miller once wrote, that puts into words the "unsingable heartsong the ordinary man may feel but never utter."
Something beautiful and extraordinary happens between actors and audience in this play at DTC. Without any of the high-tech gadgetry that can make a whaling ship and its crew sink beneath the sea before our eyes, but with plain words spoken by people on a nearly empty stage, we are privileged to witness what Miller called "the naked and direct contemplation of man." Sometimes that is spectacle enough.