Theater Review: DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Ruskin Theatre Group in Santa Monica)

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by Joan Alperin on July 3, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles

DEATH LIVES

Arthur Miller makes Willie Loman, the tragic figure in his Death of a Salesman, 63 years old. So I was more than a little skeptical as to whether or not Rob Morrow (of Northern Exposure fame) could pull it off. At Ruskin Theatre Group, Morrow, with his boyish good looks, appears much younger than he is at 56. Yet as with Dustin Hoffman and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who were in their 40s when they tackled the role, and Lee J. Cobb, who originated the role in his late 30s, Morrow offers a completely compelling interpretation.

From the moment Morrow shuffles onto the stage with his head down and his shoulders bowed, carrying his sample cases, you see a man who is completely defeated. Loman is a traveling salesman covering the east coast, staying in cheap motels, trying to sell his wares to buyers who are no longer interested in him. This is a man who has become obsolete. There are indications that he may be suffering from depression and dementia, as he struggles to find the right words and has a hard time distinguishing past from present.

Loman believes in the American Dream but never achieved it. He lies to himself, to his loving and protective wife, Linda (the excellent Lee Garlington) and to both his sons Biff (Robert Adamson) and Happy (Dylan Rourke) about how he is well-loved by his customers. Of course, they see right through him.

Willie’s only hope now lies with his boys, who he believes will make something of their lives and in turn save him. But it’s obvious that this will never happen. His sons are as broken as Willie himself.

Some of the most heartbreaking moments in the play are when the playwright shows us, in flashbacks, happier scenes from Loman’s more optimistic past and the times when a young family and an inspired salesman still had hope that they could live the American Dream.

This 70th anniversary revival directed by Mike Reilly proves that this play is as timely now as in 1949, as the characters deal with the same economic and social struggles as we do today. This great American Tragedy definitely needs to be seen.

photos by Ed Krieger

Death of a Salesman
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Ave in Santa Monica
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2 (dark July 12-14)
ends on August 4, 2019
for tickets, call 310.397.3244 or visit Ruskin

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gloria Garvin July 4, 2019 at 12:45 am

Great review! Thanks! I’ve now got my tickets to see this classic play.

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Craig Bierko August 21, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Awesome actor and human taking a big swing and connecting – I hope someone smart brings this to NYC!

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