Dreamwell brings ‘Death of a Salesman’ to the local stage

Dreamwell Theatre
Performances start this Friday at Mt. Vernon’s First Street Community Center and continue through mid-May at the Iowa Children’s Museum in Coral Ridge Mall. — photo by Angela Laffey

Death of a Salesman

Dreamwell Theatre (various locations) — Through May 16

Dreamwell is concluding its season of “The Grand Delusion” with quite possibly the best play to embody this theme. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is widely considered the best American play of the 20th century. Traveling salesman Willy Loman clings to the hope that his children will achieve greatness one day, but son Biff grows disillusioned with his father’s version of the American Dream. When it first premiered in Philadelphia 1949, the audience sat stunned for a lengthy period of time before they began to applaud. Critics and audiences knew they were witnessing something special, and the play went on to win both the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play is a favorite for Broadway revivals, with the most recent production in 2012 featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy. Theatres stage productions everywhere from Sweden to China. There will even be a Yiddish-language adaptation off-Broadway in October. This Iowa City cast will feature prolific local actor Rip Russell in the titular role.

Many are already familiar with this iconic play. They might even have vague memories of reading it in high school English classes. Regardless, even if you’ve encountered the words before, this play is still worth seeing in person. Its depiction of expectation and disappointment will resonate with viewers of all walks of life.

Like Willy Loman, Dreamwell is staking this production on the road. The first two performances will be at the First Street Community Center in Mt. Vernon, while the rest of the performances will be at the Iowa Children’s Museum at Coral Ridge Mall. Performances run through May 16.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 175