Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Death of a Salesman: Still Relevant after all these Years

Death of a Salesman is a beautifully written play by Arthur Miller, one of the foremost dramatists of the first half of the 20th century. It concerns day-dreaming versus realistic thinking as realized in the life of a traveling salesman. Toward the end of the play, one of the minor characters sums up the theme: A salesman's gotta dream; it comes with the territory.

The San Jose Stage Company recently revived this classic. Yesterday was the final show of the run, and it was a terrific performance. All the actors conveyed their lines with just the right attitude, just the right tone, just the right pacing. We have seen this play in movies and on TV with big-time actors and big-time emoting, but Miller's lines are even more convincing when delivered by more regular people in a more normal way.

The San Jose Stage Company has a very nice playhouse, just the right size, about 250 seats on three sides of a projecting stage, with no curtains. Even at the back of the house, we were only 10 rows from the action, and the seats are tiered so we could see fine.

During the intermission we happened to meet a traveling sales woman. She was quite excited because a play written long ago related to her current concerns.

But everyone has the problem of what to do about dreams. Somehow you gotta have dreams, but they can get you into a lot of trouble, and keep you from finding yourself. Your real self has to be grounded in reality, as well as you can figure it out.