The Croswell Opera House opens the new year with a classic American tragedy, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama takes place over a crucial 24-hour period in the life of Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman who has lost his job, the respect of his sons, and, worst of all, his hope.
Director Robert Soller is no stranger to Death of a Salesman. Not only has he directed it several times, including the Croswell's 1985 production, he did his master's thesis on the play at the University of Hawaii, and that's where one of its elements became almost an obsession.
"Jo Mielziner, who designed the original set for the show's 1949 premiere, did a masterful job, and it's an absolute classic, so each time I've directed it, we've always put up and rebuilt that entire set. It's very intricate and it's fun to see. The set is as much a character in the play as the people," Soller said.
Soller is equally pleased with his cast, which stars Terrence Hissong and Julianne Dolan as Willy and Linda Loman and Denny Jacobs and Ryan Burke as their sons, Biff and Happy.
"We did this play here 21 years ago, and Terry Hissong played the part then and now he's much closer to the age he should be to play it. He has done wonders in the way of acting development even since then, although he was wonderful back in '85." Also returning to the cast is Jacobs, who played the younger son, Happy, the last time around.
Hissong says that Death of a Salesman is considered by many critics to be the top American play. "It's a play almost unlike anything else. I'm not sure it's a criticism of the American Dream or the American Dream gone wrong, but the whole play really is about a dysfunctional family where the character of Willy Loman has sort of wreaked havoc on his sons, on his wife, and we see this interplay between the family members as they were in the past and how they are in the present."
Hissong says that he has much more of an understanding of Loman these days. "My older two children were almost infants when I first played the role and now both kids are grown and have left the house and are chasing their dreams. I was very aware of the power of the play before and I always had to work toward that power; now the power of the play just kind of sweeps over me because I see these things so clearly in my own personal life."
As for the character of Linda, Dolan says that although she is very much a woman of her times, some elements are universal.
"I know a lot of people think she's wimpy, but here's the thing: She took a vow, she made a promise, and she loves the man. She wants to ease his burden; that was her job, to make life smooth running, when he came home from his long week on the road. You can imagine how hard it was for her when the boys were growing up. I think just there's so much about relationships in the show, how if you don't keep communicating and growing and changing, this is what can happen."
Other members of the cast include Peter Mackey as Loman's brother, Ben; Jim Brian as Charley; William Eversden as Bernard, and T.S. Sanger, Shardon Rodriguez, and Cindy Farnham as minor characters.
"Death of a Salesman" opens tomorrow and runs through Feb. 5 in the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. Information: 517-264-7469 or www.croswell.org.
Aquila Theatre Company brings its national tour of William Shakespeare's Hamlet to the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The tragedy, often considered to be Shakespeare's greatest play, explores the human psyche as a tale of murder and revenge unfolds.
Founded in 1991 in London and now based in New York City, Aquila is a professional troupe that is based on the belief that the greatest works should be seen by the greatest number of people, according to artistic director Peter Meineck.
Hamlet is sponsored by Tiffin University, Heidelberg College, and the Ritz. Prior to the performance, members of Aquila Theatre will present a talk on the play at 2 p.m. in the Ritz's smaller National Theatre. The lecture is free and open to the public.
The Aquila Theatre Company presents "Hamlet" at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Ritz Theatre, 30 South Washington St., Tiffin. Tickets range from $11 to $31. Information: 419-448-8544 or www.ritztheatre.org.
"Dat year, camp was as tense as a moose's butt durin' fly season."
With lines like that, it must be a production of Escanaba in Da Moonlight.
Directed by Alona McAfee, Jeff Daniels' comedy about deer-hunting in Michigan's Upper Peninsula opens tonight in Bryan.
The cast comprises Gene Asher as patriarch Albert Soady; Tom Thompson and John Trippy as his sons, Remnar and Reuben; Theron Steinke as their buddy Jimmer Negamanee; Eric Rezabek as Ranger Tom, and Joy Dockery as Reuben's wife, Wolf Moon Dance.
The Williams County Community Theater presents "Escanaba in Da Moonlight" tonight through Feb. 5 in the Little Theater Off the Square, 208 West Butler St., Bryan. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Because limited seating only remains for both Saturday performances, the WCCT has added a 5 p.m. show on Feb. 4. Tickets are $12. Information: 419-485-3861.