The Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece DEATH OF A SALESMAN, directed by Mike Nichols, opened March 15, 2012 at the Barrymore Theatre to critical acclaim. The production has won the 2012 Drama League Award for Distinguished Revival of a Play and the 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play. Nominated for five Drama Desk Awards and seven Tony Awards, the production stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman, Linda Emond as Linda Loman, and Andrew Garfield, making his Broadway debut as Biff Loman. The strictly limited engagement runs through June 2 only. Samuel G. Freedman writes about the most nominated play of the season in the New York Times.
The New York Times
By Samuel G. Freedman
May 18, 2012
A Yiddish play with the title “Toyt fun a Salesman” opened at the Parkway Theater in Brooklyn early in 1951. As most of the audience recognized from the name alone, the show was a translation of Arthur Miller’s drama “Death of a Salesman.” It seemed a mere footnote to the premiere production, which had completed its triumphal run on Broadway several months earlier, having won the Pulitzer Prize.
Even so, a theater critic in Commentary magazine, George Ross, declared of the Brooklyn version, “What one feels most strikingly is that this Yiddish play is really the original, and the Broadway production was merely Arthur Miller’s translation into English.”
History, it must be said, has not exactly ratified Mr. Ross’s judgment. In an enduring way, however, he framed a penetrating question about Miller’s masterpiece, which has echoed from the 1949 debut to the celebrated revival now on Broadway. Is Willy Loman Jewish?
The current production — widely lauded and nominated for seven Tony Awards — has been most notable for its fidelity to Miller’s original intent. It uses the set design and musical score from the original production, and it indelibly portrays Willy’s drift between present and past, between reality and memory and fantasy. Miller’s original title for the play, after all, was “The Inside of His Head.”
The producer Scott Rudin was interested enough, though, in the matter of the Loman family’s roots to assemble a research folder of critical and biographical essays grappling with the Jew-Everyman debate. “It’s so much a play about someone who wants to belong to the largest thing he can belong to — a fantasy of America,” Mr. Rudin said in a recent interview. “And he’s become deracinated from his background in the process.”
Mike Nichols, the director of the current revival, came to the United States as a Jewish refugee child from Nazi Germany. What he has seen in Willy is not the intensity of the immigrant generation of Jews, with its fervor for education, but the worship of materialism by the second generation, those disparaged in Yiddish as being “alrightniks.”
“Willy has no forebears,” Mr. Nichols said in an interview this month. “He’s not from any country. He has no holidays of any religion. So you have to assume Miller’s making a point. We who are struggling to sell enough have to drop everything — religion, nationality, family. There is nothing except, as Willy puts it, being known and being well-liked.”
To read the rest of the feature, follow the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/us/on-religion-since-the-opening-curtain-a-debate-is-willy-loman-jewish.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.