An attack on the American dream of materialism, “Death of a Salesman” is a three-act play (two acts and a “requiem”), centering on the main character, Willy Loman, (played by Arthur Pettee). The cast also includes Ray Mahoney, Francis Hauert, Adrienne Major, Jerry Levy, Christina Doe, and Nancy Groff.
Loman has been a traveling salesman all his life. Despite his hard work and grueling schedule, the Lomans have always lived on the edge of poverty and Loman has always been an underling in his company. Yet Loman constantly tells himself and his family that the “big break” he deserves is just around the corner. He has raised his two sons, Biff (Eric Cutler) and Happy (Matthew McDougall), to also believe that somehow life has cheated them and insists that one day they will get their due.
Loman is devastated and he states his work ethic clearly when he says that a man who makes his appearance in the business world is the man who gets ahead. Loman’s old boss has died, leaving his son, Howard (Jonny Mack) the company. The new owner sees Loman as having outlived his usefulness to the company.
Loman is crushed. He begins to slowly kill himself by inhaling gas fumes from a hose in the garage, an act that relieves his mental anguish. The gas also muddles Loman’s mind, conflating past, present, and future. He wants desperately to be “well liked,” and without the status of being a manager who makes more money, the dream is impossible. He dies as he has lived, a failure in the eyes of society.
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