Death of a Salesman has received a reinvention at the Hudson theater. Directed by Miranda Cromwell, the cast features an all black Lowman family. Wendell Price performs Willy Lowman to his depths, as an enthralling, pitiful, and honorable man. Sharon D. Clarke plays his wife and gave the show its most polished performance. She delivers her lines and sings her numbers with extreme clarity and timing. The unforgettable Andre De Shields plays Willy Lowmans mythical and wealthy older brother. Clad in all white with fake diamonds kickboxing the back of the room, there couldn’t be a more perfect charlatan.
Arthur Miller was accused of being a communist in his day. The play unfolds the emotional reality of capitalism, in the home, the bar, the workplace or the heart. Desire, insecurity, despair, and detachment, proceed cyclically and fatally. Neither the cycle nor the symptoms have changed since Arthur Miller day. Something about greed is as common as the cold and as infectious in the air.
The magic of Miranda’s production is how refreshing of an effect she achieved with so few changes. The success of the play hinged on how well it confronted race while hardly changing any original lines. Willy tells his son not to pick up a pen if it falls from his employer’s desk during his interview. It takes no expounding for a visceral recognition of a power struggle dating to 1619. When Willy turns to his white mistress and says there’s laws against this in Massachusetts, he doesn’t need to specify he’s not not talking about adultery. We watch Willy beg a white man for his job, inflaming our double consciousness. I felt thoroughly provoked.
A system that acts on our feelings will leave relatable imprints across all people who have had to bear the brunt its violence. Regardless of race, capitalism makes most of us feel the same. But a people who spent their first four hundred years chained to each other while building this system have a unique vulnerability. A unique vulnerability to belittlement, a unique vulnerability for disregard, and a unique level of despair. Without ever mentioning race Cromwell makes a micro study of this despair.