DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Soulpepper). At Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House). To October 6. $45-$65, stu $28, rush $5-$22. 416-866-8666. See listing. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
At a Soulpepper post-show audience talkback in 2010, Joseph Ziegler and Nancy Palk, spouses in real life and onstage in Death Of A Salesman, remarked on the difficulty of leaving Willy and Linda Loman at the theatre after performing. Obviously, they weren't the only actors deeply affected by their characters, since most of the original cast returned for this terrific remount.
Written in 1949, Arthur Miller's play endures as an examination of family dysfunction and crushed dreams. As Willy nears the end of his career, eldest son Biff returns home, plunging the Lomans into a fierce struggle with their imperfections, resentments and lies.
Ziegler earned a Dora for the role in 2011, and this time he's equally tragic and nuanced. His fatigued gait reveals a man weighed down by much more than the heaviness of his salesman's suitcases, and he manoeuvres in and out of flashbacks brilliantly. As his Loman wrestles with reality, Palk's beleaguered Linda remains resilient. Every gaze at her husband reveals a complex mix of hope and devotion.
Ari Cohen (Biff) and Mike Ross (new to this production as younger brother Happy) play siblings with genuine rapport and mutual affection. Cohen's Biff is a fallen jock, emotionally punctured during high school and deflating ever since. His harrowing eruption at his father's feet in act two drives the play on to its traumatic conclusion. The excellent supporting cast, particularly Michael Hanrahan and Gregory Prest as father and son from next door, rounds out a tight ensemble.
Director Albert Schultz's precise pacing lets scenes breathe and characters interact believably. He effectively highlights tense moments with pauses or with sound, such as the resonance of three shots of scotch being placed on a table.
A slight fog in the air greets the audience coming into the theatre and contributes to the emotional murkiness unfolding onstage. Bonnie Beecher's lighting evokes the play's darkness, and Lorenzo Savoini's set, which contains the Loman house and other locations, never restricts movement. In the final scene, the cellar door does extremely effective double duty.
This remount marks the rebirth of a fantastic production. Be sure to see it.