The role of Willy Loman is very exacting, requiring great range and subtlety from the actor. The single greatest requirement, though, is for the actor to be Loman rather than to play him; there needs to be total immersion in the character, and the character’s different stages. It must be possible to see the Loman who so enthralled and impressed his sons, the Loman who believed in the Dream and to contrast that against the Loman who is engulfed, diminished, destroyed. Antony Sher gives a prickly, vigorous, erratically explosive performance. He might wear Loman’s skin but he never gets under it.
Breen squeezes every bit of comedic possibility from the play. The repertory company, so good in the dramatic and enthralling Oppenheimer, prove to be equally skilled in the bawdy comedy department. There are sly asides, vicious insults, dirty double entendres, rowdy gags, silly accent routines, fart jokes, catch-phrase jollity, physical comedy, costume comedy, sight gags, clowning – you name it, it can be found in Breen’s lucid, fast-moving and hugely enjoyable production.
A beautiful, sometimes shocking, sometimes haunting, production of an intricate and detailed dissection of human frailty and weakness. Doran lavishes great care and attention on the task of illuminating the text, telling the story in an engrossing way. Niki Turner’s spare, but stunningly effective design, aids immeasurably.