Soulpepper, the brilliant Toronto theatre company, packed them in for 6 weeks with the production of the American classic Death of a Salesman. It was an outstanding production with Joe Ziegler as the pathetic Willy Loman.
Arthur Miller’s play written in 1949 as the US economy was beginning to boom and the flight to the suburbs was in full flight is as relevant today—maybe even more so–than it was when the prolific Miller penned it.
What accounts for its powerful resonance today? Why does it grab people in such an arresting manner?
it is simply because Miller gets at the basis of the hollow American individualist dream.
As Biff, Willie’s son looks back on the pathetic shell of his salesman father, he states the obvious: “He had all the wrong dreams.” The man’s whole weltanschaung was bereft of any deep meaning. Willie staked his whole life on the externals of “a smile and a shoeshine”, nothing deep, nothing meaningful or transcendent.He is indeed a “Low man”, a poor one dimensional figure who has bought the cultural bull shit so evident in the collapsed “me first” world of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.
Wrong dreams personified in the life and career of avatars like George Bush are more abundant today than in the late 40s.The ad biz has managed to implant these nightmares in the heads of much of the population.
It reminds me of Native elder Art Solomon’s comment when he would visit the overly-incarcerated Indian population in Toronto’s Don Jail.Solomon’s first word of advice: “Turn off the box(the television).Don’t let those dreams invade your life.”