Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Arthur Miller Festival:
Also see Susan's review of The History Boys
Foucheux plays up the desperate hopefulness of Willy, the salesman determined to succeed even as his life collapses around him, breathing deeply as he attempts to avoid being swallowed up by the world. One interesting touch of casting is that the other men in the cast tower over Foucheux: older son Biff (Jeremy S. Holm), disillusioned and searching for his place in life, is broad-shouldered and takes up a lot of space; younger son Happy (Tim Getman), the low-level businessman with no concern about scruples, is sleeker and taller; even Charley (Noble Shropshire), Willy's "liked but not well-liked" neighbor, and his nerdy, brainy son Bernard (Louis Cancelmi) seem to dwarf the beaten-down Willy.
In recent years, directors and actors have been taking a fresh look at Miller's women: long considered one-dimensional, simply long-suffering mothers and good-time girls, they appear in more contemporary productions with more steel and tenacity, able to stand up for themselves in a world of men. Robinette demonstrates that side of Linda admirably, understanding Willy completely and loving him despite his scorn and self-absorption, and fighting to defend him against all threats.
Even the smaller roles make an impact in the overall picture. Naomi Jacobson makes a full-blooded character out of the sketchy role of Willy's Boston girlfriend; Stephen F. Schmidt is appropriately oblivious as Willy's young boss; and J. Fred Shiffman conveys the scary gravity, if not the physical bulk, of Willy's fearless older brother.
Delaney Williams gives an impassioned performance as Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman and another of the playwright's heroes defeated by his own character (in this case, his overprotective love of his niece), and Jacobson offers an incisive portrait of another determined woman, Eddie's neglected wife Beatrice. Virginia Kull ably conveys the growth of the teenage niece, Catherine, from childlike at the beginning to mature before her years, and David Agranov offers charm and a sweet voice as the guileless illegal immigrant she loves.
To deal with the requirements of a rotating repertory, scenic designer Loy Arcenas has kept the settings simple, largely consisting of flats and furniture, leaving spaces on the stage where the audience can use its imagination to fill in the blanks. Nancy Schertler's lighting design serves to pinpoint the areas of interest, operating on almost a cinematic level.