“Death of a Salesman” draws intimate crowd

Liz Stephens, City Reporter

Charleston Community Theatre’s production of “Death of a Salesman” has stirred the emotions of local audience members.

Arthur Miller’s classic play is about a man named Willy Loman living in New York City in the late 1940s. Loman is a salesman who gets demoted from a salary employee to a commissioned employee, which causes a lot of financial struggle for him, his wife Linda and his two sons Biff and Happy.

In one scene, his sons leave him alone in a restaurant and Loman ends up having hallucinations about the woman he used to cheat on Linda with.

Ryan Mulvaney, a Charleston resident who plays Biff, said during the restaurant scene when Willy slaps him, there is an audible gasp by the majority of the audience members in the room.

“Usually in the flashback scene, when you find out why there is so much tension between my character and Willy Loman, there is quite a few audience reactions to what happens,” Mulvaney said.

Earl Halbe, a Charleston resident who plays Willy Loman, said there was an overflow of people who came to the opening night show on Friday, March 31. He said they had to “tuck people away in various little corners” so they could fit the 60 or more people in a space that is supposed to fit about 50.

Halbe said overall, opening night went really well and all three nights went smoothly.

“I am very pleased with the final product and the cast,” Mulvaney said.

“It’s very intimate (the setting), near the end of the play I could hear someone softly crying because they were so close,” Halbe said.

“They are able to see every tiny little thing that happens on your face,” he added.

Charleston resident Kathie Scott went to see the play and said she was crying during many moments of the play.

Scott said one of the parts in the play that moved her to cry was when Loman stares off into space while another character tries to talk to him.

“On his face I could see the fatigue and the weight of everything that was coming down on him (Loman) and it just touched me and that was the first time I started to cry during the performance,” she said.

Scott said she started to cry in another scene where Biff confronts Loman about catching him with another woman and sits down to cry. She said she could feel the conflict and anguish just by his face turning red and other facial expressions.

“At the very very end with Linda at the grave side and talking about being finally free — at that point, I had tears streaming down my face and she almost got a sob out of me,” she said.

Scott said she hated the play when she read it in college, but she loved the performance.

She said she never knew how beautifully sad the play was before she saw the performance, because when she read the play, Willy Loman seemed very two-dimensional on the page.

“Death of a Salesman” has more upcoming performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Elks Lodge at 720 6th St.

Liz Stephens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].