Ask an expert to list what they would consider to be the greatest roles in Western theatre and invariably you get Hamlet and King Lear.? Alongside Shakespeare you more often than not get Ricky Roma from Glengarry Glen Ross
and Willy Loman from Death of Salesman
.? It isn?t difficult to see why Willy would make that list. So much of Miller?s tragedy hinges on the portrayal of this pathetic hero.?
In the Shanachie Theatre's production, Maximillion De Chagny more than rises to the challenge of Willy Loman.? We watch as De Chagny easily moves from the ferocity of a driven man, to wild-eyed frenzy as he searches for options, and finally to someone who is simply so tired he sees ending it all as his only way out. ?This is a calculated performance full of realism and such intense heartbreak.
The trio of actors who make up the rest of the beleaguered Loman Family are also up to the play?s challenges.? My heart ached as Lelah Rivka took her first turn on a Rhy'Din stage as the fiercely supportive Linda, who struggles under husband Willy?s drive, and whose final words of ?we?re free? echoed through the house with both lament and celebration.
As the two sons Biff and Happy, Luke Shaunessy and Francis Gregoire, also do fine work.? Shaunessy, who gets the meatier of the two roles, is particularly powerful and matched perfectly to De Chagny?s Willy in their final showdown. Gregoire's "Hap" is so full of wide-eyed enthusiasm that we know the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.
But after all the analysis on this anatomy of the Great American Dream is done, it is simply a story of love.? Such great love that our protagonist is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for it.? And that central message of love spills over into the audience as Willy Loman and his family struggle to survive the pressures placed on them while they try to achieve their dreams.
On Shanachie's stage, under the careful and loving direction of Ludo Von Eschenbach, this classic tragic tale is brought to life with both the powerful beauty of love and a pain that lingers long after the show ends.? Willy Loman?s legacy lives on.