"Startling complimentary image"

"As Willy Loman, Ken Baltin in the opening scene shuffles wearily into the kitchen, a man zero-to-the-bone, dropping his suitcases if they were blocks of cement. But it is Paula Plum’s Linda who supplies the startling complimentary image. After she bucks Willy up he leaves the bedroom and, in this moment of solitude, the actress’ face sinks and sags, her soul drooping out of sheer fatigue. Her reaction is a reminder that Miller’s play is not only about how much futile energy it takes to dream away a life as a salesman …it is also about how much life is drained from others to make a man who is no longer (perhaps never was) well liked feel well liked.

That brilliantly nuanced moment from Plum provides the key to the strengths and the weaknesses of the production, which is firmly anchored in two powerful performances.

Plum’s Linda is no wilting helpmate, but tigerish when she needs to be, as when she orders sons Happy and Biff out of the house after they have abandoned their father. You sense that she is torn apart, but Plum suggests that Linda also finds release in the confrontation – she revels in a rare moment of telling the truth and acting on her repugnance. Linda’s final speech over Willy’s grave is filled with a wondering tone that not only questions why her husband committed suicide, but seems to ask, wistfully, what 'free and clear' means in a society whose brutal wheels are greased by false promises and endless competition. Men and women encouraged to dream big but forced to settle for so little."

-Bill Marx

Tony Howell

Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.