Return to story


January 17, 2013 12:01 pm


Knock, knock: 'Death of a Salesman,' Arthur Miller's tale of an aging salesman, opens Friday for two weekends.


Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play when it was first performed in 1949. The play has won three additional Tony Awards for best revival in the years since then.

Fredericksburg's Stage Door Productions kicks off the 2013 season with its own production of "Death of a Salesman" this weekend.

Some of us may have been required to read the play in high school; most of us have heard of it and might have a vague knowledge of it being a tragic story that questions the idealism of the American Dream.

When the 63-year-old salesman Willy Loman is fired during Act 2, it is after a lifetime of that job being his identity, his hope for a future as great as his dreams.

"You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit," Willy tells his boss.

That idea has a lot to do with some of the central questions addressed in this play, like illusion vs. reality, what makes a man successful, how easily love can be unrecognized and, as a result, uncultivated.

"Your heart will break for the characters," said Jim Lawson, who plays the part of Willy Loman. "We see new layers of depth with every rehearsal. It is a delightful challenge."

The West Springfield resident brings 30 years of theatrical experience to the role. He has performed at the Riverside Theater in familiar roles, such as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," and as Horace Vandergelder opposite Sally Struthers in "Hello, Dolly!"

Lawson said you need to actually see "Death of a Salesman" performed in order to really "get it."

"You can count on a couple hours of great entertainment," Lawson said. "With it laid out on the stage in flesh and blood, you recognize a little bit of yourself, and others, in each of the characters. You walk away with amazing insights."

Director John Hollinger said the entire cast does a fantastic job.

"It's been a pure pleasure working with everyone, we have a good pool of talent," he said. "There are so many complex parts. It's a challenging play, but that's exactly what makes it so enjoyable to perform and to watch."

This is Hollinger's second experience directing "Death of a Salesman." The first time he did it was in 1977 at Washington and Lee University.

"Back then, it wasn't so hard to find authentic props and costumes for a play set in 1949," Hollinger said. "Now, all that stuff is worth a lot of money."

Fortunately, other local theater companies have generously helped out. Riverside, for example, is providing the costumes. Many items are being borrowed from Richmond and other areas.

The stage at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, where the play will be performed, has had an extension built onto it to accommodate the action. With this apron, there is space for about 100 seats for the audience, creating a personal and intimate atmosphere.

"It's solid, high-quality theater," said Lawson. "That's worth the price of the ticket right there."

Emily Jennings: 540/374-5477

What: "Death of a Salesman" by Stage Door Productions Where: Central Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline St., Fredericksburg When: Jan. 18-19, 25-26 at 8 p.m., and Jan. 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. Cost: $15 Info: 540/903-3808;

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.