An upcoming theater production will double as a tribute to one of Americas greatest playwrights.
The Little Theatre, Inc. of Savannah is presenting Death of a Salesman April 7, 9 and 10 at the Jewish Educational Alliance, 5111 Abercorn St.
Written by Arthur Miller in 1949, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama later that year. Miller died Feb. 10 of congestive heart failure at the age of 89. It would be easy to assume that the staging of his masterpiece is a result of his death, but director Toby Thelin says it is sheer coincidence.
Ive had people ask me if we planned that, he says. Its kind of strange that we started rehearsals the week after it happened (Millers death).
Eileen Janson is a member of the Little Theatre, Inc. board of directors. We had the season set last July, she says. We tried to create diversity in our season.
We just finished a very successful production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Janson says. Death of a Salesman is a change of direction. We were auditioning people for it before Joseph was finished.
Coming up next will be a major musical production. Lil Abner will be presented the first week in August, Janson says.
Weve done all our shows at the JEA, but Lil Abner will require a larger venue. Well probably do it at the Armstrong Atlantic Fine Arts Auditorium.
Janson notes that the Little Theatre is the oldest theater company in Savannah. Were in our 54th season, she says.
Thelin is a graduate of New York University and has worked in theater in New York City and for several regional theaters. I was working at the Manhattan Theater Club in the 1990s when Arthur Miller came out of retirement and wrote a couple of plays for the Manhattan Theater Club, he says He wasnt in great health at the time. I never had the honor of having a conversation with him, but his voice and presence were always there. It was a neat experience.
Death of a Salesman is seen as an attack on the American dream of success through economic enterprise. It centers on Willy Loman, who once was known throughout New England as a great salesman.
Over time, Willys life seems to have slipped out of control. His family is dysfunctional, and when Willy is fired from his sales job, he is pushed over the edge. The story is told in present day scenes that show the extent of Willys turmoil, and flashbacks that present clues about how his downfall began.
The production stars Philip Webber as Willy Loman; Susan Patrice as his wife, Linda Loman; Patrick Saxon as his older son, Biff Loman; and Joshua Stafford as Happy Loman, as the younger son. The role of Willys former sales rival, Charley, is played by Larry Plapinger.
Others in the cast are Thomas Mokwa as Bernard, Karen Mowka as The Woman, Bonnie Terrell as Jenny, Dawn Peterson as Miss Forsythe, Kristi Snyder as Letta, Russell Jones as Ben and Brandon Lee as Howard Wagner.
In addition to directing the play, Thelin also plays Stanley.
One of the most influential plays of the 20th century, Death of a Salesman today is often required reading in high school literature classes.
This is an opportunity to see classic American theater, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play on stage, Thelin says. To see if come to life in front of you can give you a greater understanding of the play. Plays were meant to be seen, not read.
Performances of Death of a Salesman are set for April 7 and 9 at 8 p.m. and April 10 at 3 p.m. at the JEA. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 355-8111, Ext. 225, 429-2637 or 220-1255.