By Kayla Tucker – A&E/Features Editor
Jewish Theatre of Grand Rapids will showcase a performance of “Death of a Salesman,” by Arthur Miller. Miller was a Jew himself and the themes of the play correlate with the general lives of Americans, as well as Jewish immigrants of the time period.
The tragedy, written in 1949, touches on common themes of family, the American Dream, and the illusions of success. Willy Loman, a father, husband, and traveling salesman, struggles to realize his job is coming to an end. He faces depression and a false idea of success, and his family, a wife and two grown children, feel the repercussions.
Linda Loman, his wife, can’t come to terms with Willy’s problems and passively excuses him and his errors. Meanwhile, Biff, the oldest son, is trying to make Willy proud, while at the same time trying to keep his father sane. The youngest son, Harold “Happy,” is almost invisible to the rest of the family, living in the shadows of his older brother. Still he remains attention-seeking but supportive and attempts to maintain positivity in the family, while Linda looks down on him for his lifestyle.
Charley, the Loman’s witty next-door neighbor, is willing to be a helping hand for Willy when he’s down, which includes lending money to the family. Willy is jealous of Charley’s son, who he considers to be more successful than Biff or Happy, and often treats him poorly. Charley offers Willy a job many times, but Willy declines, because he is too proud to face reality.
“This is a big piece both thematically and with characters with big things to work through,” Director Jason Marlett said. “I think most are going to walk away really thinking about those themes of fitting in, dreams, and just kind of reveling in the good performances.”
For Pat Hendren, set to play Willy Loman, the show helps him relate to his own life.
“I learned that there’s a lot of Willy in me, a lot of his faults are things that I have been struggling with in my life,” Hendren said.
While many may label the play as depressing at first, Hendren said the audience should take away a lesson and apply it to their own lives.
“This show is intended to teach people, or at least to put something out there that you can look at and see a reflection of yourself in,” Hendren said.
Shows run April 16 through 26 at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for seniors, and $5 for students.