"...and there'll be nobody home. We're free and clear, Willy....we're free...we're free..."
David Grybowski as Willy Loman manages to engage the audience from his first scene until the very end, bringing about a personal touch to his role. He says that his father, who was 'one of the last travelling salesmen' is his role model in the play, and this connection is evident throughout David's performance and gripping onstage presence that definitely takes the viewer on a whirlwind journey through Willy's altered mental states, as he slips between reality and memory. Although Death of a Salesman is David's first performance with The Therry Dramatic Society, his experience as an actor shines as he evokes a sense of sadness and sorrow in the viewer by his representation of a lost and woeful man. Willy's moments of confusion and conversations with his brother Ben, are enhanced by the stark lighting by lighting designer Richard Parkhill, who manages to take us back and forth between the past and the current moment. Blackouts, spotlights and coloured hues make each character a stand out in their own way, giving each person a unique story to tell.
Of course, David's outstanding performance is accompanied by Cate Rogers as Linda Loman, who has been a part of many award-nominated productions. Also worth noting is Mark Healy as Happy Loman who last year, co-wrote, co-directed and acted in a Fringe production: Tinder Surprise. An actor to look out for is Adam Tuominen as Biff Loman, who slowly transitions into his role to create a dynamic impact that leaves the audience in utter shock. His first appearance onstage is a little slow, as Mark predominantly makes an impression in the beginning. But it's toward the middle of the play where Adam really evolves, almost outshining the other cast members. Many may recognise Adam from the Natural Gas ads as the 'gas guy' but it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise to see him flourish onstage in such an emotive role that brought the scripted character to life.
Greg Janzow as Uncle Ben Loman, Tom Carney as Charley, Carol Lawton as the other woman, Erin Walsh as Jenny, Megan Langford as Miss Forsythe, Thorin Cupit as Howard and Heath Trebilcock as Bernard work in harmony with one another in each of their scenes. All actors manage to reinterpret such a renowned text in an engrossing way, almost breaking the fourth-wall as they connect with the audience.
The team at The Therry Dramatic Society put on a poignant show, with the costume design, hair and makeup and set design transporting us to the setting of the play that was formulated by Miller in 1949. However, Arthur Miller's script addresses themes that even a contemporary audience can relate to in many ways, despite the difference in time and year, including loss of identity and the inability to accept change. Likewise, life's pressures, money worries and the ways we judge ourselves after making a mistake play a significant role in the story. We see this in Willy who continuously looks back at his sons' failures and in someway blames himself for the way their future panned out. Death of a Salesman still maintains to affect audiences because it allows us to reach within, looking at ourselves from a different perspective. We feel sorry for Willy who seems to be drowning in his own world of despair, slowly losing touch with reality. But, we also recognise Willy's incapability to accept that's he's just an ordinary salesman, reiterated when Biff says that they are both just 'ordinary men'. Instead of acknowledging the present, Willy retreats into the past and chooses to relive past memories, dissociating himself even more as the play goes on.
Director Sue Wylie stays true to the core of the story whilst transforming the respected narrative into a means of self-reflection. She has done an exceptional job, as she takes on a profound text that can be difficult to pull off, particularly with all the diverse shifting stage cues and actors appearing and disappearing between Willy's moments of disassociation.
Death of a Salesman is playing at the Arts Theatre in Angas Street until 20 August at 8 pm and Wednesday 24 to Saturday 27 August at 8 pm. You can book and purchase tickets here.