“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away,” Willy Loman says in Death of a Salesman. “A man is not a piece of fruit.” Arthur Miller’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize-winning play explores the anxiety brought on by the American Dream. For his entire life, Loman has wanted to be successful in business, and almost as important, well-liked as a man, but things rarely go his way. More than six and a half decades after its premiere, the show stands the test of time and Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre’s production continues its recent string of successes.
A father in his 60s, Willy (George Sanchez) ends a business trip after he nearly hits a pedestrian while driving to Massachusetts. Upon his early return home, his wife Linda (Mary Pauley) urges him to rest and then ask his boss for a nontraveling sales job in New York. The couple’s two grown sons, Biff (Garrett Prejean) and Happy (Chris Marroy), are staying at their parents’ house. Willy’s troubles lead his sons to re-examine their own lives.
Sanchez gave a stellar performance. Willy often gets lost in introspection, talking to himself and addressing his past. Sanchez gave Willy many layers as he went from restraint to desperation. His best moments came when he interacted with his oldest son Biff, who was a star high school athlete. Biff lost his way after he caught Willy cheating on his mother. There’s a lot of tension between Willy and Biff as the two men unpack their troubled relationship. The tics and mannerisms Prejean gave to Biff highlighted the complex way he rendered the character.
Willy’s fortunes go from bad to worse. He ultimately loses his job and slips into delusion, talking to the memory of his estranged brother Ben (Ron Gural). The moments when Gural was onstage were full of longing, and allowed Willy to show his desire to share some wisdom with his sons.
Happy is more established and money-driven than Biff. Through his energetic and sly demeanor, Marroy gave the show levity as events spiraled downward. Family strife and money troubles cause an ever more frustrated and sad Linda to crack. Pauley played Linda with intensity and delivered a haunting performance.
The Le Petit stage was transformed into a cross section of a two-story house, and the staging allowed a direct view into the household. The audiences saw everything from the family’s faulty refrigerator to its dining room table to the beds where they lie sleepless.
Death of a Salesman offers a brilliant portrayal of economic pressure and human vulnerability. Le Petit’s production featured an excellent cast and staging. Relationships were fully rendered and the Loman family feels like it could be a contemporary American family.
Death of a Salesman
8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Le Petit Theatre de Vieux Carre, 616 St. Peters St., (504) 522-2081