Arena Stage's Arthur Miller Festival includes Death of a Salesman and A View From the Bridge. Plus: Robert Prosky stars in The Price at Theater J.
A common theme in several of his works is the elusiveness of "The American Dream." Many of his characters struggle with the promise held out by this concept, and their all too human failures that make it impossible to achieve. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Death of a Salesman, in which area favorite Rick Foucheux stars as Willy Loman, the American everyman haunted by missed opportunities and a troubled past. However, despite the play's doom-filled title, Bond is focusing on the characters' hopes and aspirations.
"The key is not to play the end at the beginning," he states. "What are Willy's dreams? What are the demons he's been struggling with? The fact is this guy is a fighter and will not let go of his dream, his vision of who he is at work, or who his son Biff is in the world. The other key is to understand and explore the play as a love story between father and son. It's Willy's love for Biff that drives almost every choice that he makes throughout the piece, combined with his unwillingness to let go of his belief in himself and the American Dream. By staying focused on what the characters are fighting for, the play just lifts up and off the page."
Bond's production runs in repertory with A View from the Bridge, directed by Daniel Aukin and starring Delaney Williams as Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, whose world gets upended when two of his wife's impoverished Sicilian cousins enter the country illegally, and his beloved niece falls for one of them. The tight-knit Italian neighborhood depicted in the play ends up being a defining factor of the work. "One of the themes running through the writing is the extent to which personal identity is shaped and defined by our position and relationships in a larger community," says Aukin. "There are specifics to Red Hook, Brooklyn in the 1950s that bring this out forcefully, and I hope the production does the same."
The Price, which is set in a Manhattan brownstone, concerns two brothers (played by the Prosky siblings) whose long-repressed dreams, desires, and resentments bubble to the surface when an 89-year-old Jewish furniture salesman named Gregory Solomon (Robert Prosky) is hired to assess their late father's possessions. "It's the funniest part that Miller ever wrote," says Prosky of his character. "It's almost like he became Neil Simon, although there's still a large difference. Solomon has a great deal of depth and wisdom. His name is no accident, as the play explores frankly Biblical themes, and the two brothers are like Cain and Abel."