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Yuba College's 'Death of a Salesman' examines American dream, family
'Death of a Salesman'
TIMES: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays; no performance Sunday; runs to March 24.
WHERE: Yuba College theater, 2088 N. Beale Road, Linda.
Many plays have centered around the ideas of the American dream and family. But few have captured both like Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman."
Yuba College will be performing the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic starting this weekend.
"I think there's something about every character in this that I think (people) can identify with," said the play's director, Geoffrey Wander. "There's something that will touch everybody in this production. This is powerful material. It's a powerful examination of the American family."
"Death of a Salesman" is the story of Willy Loman (played by Jim Prager). Willy is "a salesman at the end of his career," Wander said. "Over the course of the play, he has to come to terms with his failings and his life and his familiy and job and other relationships."
Over the course of Willy examining his relationships, "he ends up deciding his best alternative to provide for his family and make his son the success he thinks he should be is to take his own life and let them get his insurance policy," Wander said. "And that's what he does in the end."
The play is set in Brooklyn in 1949. It opens with Willy returning from a recent business trip. His wife, Linda (played by Janet Frye) is worried about his mental state and wants him to get a job so he will not have to travel. Willy is 63. His mind is going and he talks to himself.
Their sons, Biff (played by Seth Ball) and Happy (played by Jeff Ferreira), are visiting. As they discuss their father's mental state, Willy enters their room, angry at his sons for not amounting to anything. Biff tells his father about a business proposition he is going to make the next day to placate him.
The next day, Willy gets fired from his job and Biff fails. Later, Willy, Biff and Happy meet at a restaurant, but Biff leaves in anger. Later, back at the house, Biff and Willy get into an argument during which Biff says he is not meant for anything great and to accept him for who he is.
Willy, his mind deteriorated, thinks Biff will start a business and crashes his car so his son can start his business with the life insurance money. But it was never Biff's plan to start a business.
"I've always enjoyed this play," Wander said. "It's a very impressive work, and I didn't realize how impressive it was until I had to get into it for this production."
What the play says about the American dream, Wander said, is "there are different versions of the American dream. For Willy, it didn't work. Willy's dream and his family, in the end, fall apart.
"This ties into families today," he said. "There are economic problems ... and people are having a hard time keeping their families together. I think a lot of people feel disappointed with how they're providing for their families ... and I think (that) relates well to what we're doing now. A lot of families are imploding like we're doing on stage."
For some families, ultimately, "the American dream is unobtainable," Wander said.