(L-R standing) Allison Steward, Ariel Clinch, Kelsey Meehan, Ben Andrews, Owen Sinclair, Mary Boothby-Brown, Mike Sherrod, Tina Falasco, Emma Jacot-Descombes, Valerie Zapolsky, Millie Hoekstra; (L-R sitting) Dan Simonds, Sam Meehan, Chris Farmer, Mike Schrader, Les Hoekstra, Anna Ross, Tim Straub.

It may seem that the Rangeley Friends of the Arts has its own section in this newspaper, and that is because there is always something going on in our humble theater. The latest was three live performances of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Miller’s tale of a post-WWII American family unwinds as a cautionary tale for all of us, as children, as parents, as siblings, as neighbors, as employees and employers, and, ultimately, as imperfect human beings not immune to tragedy.

The Loman brothers in their childhood bedroom.

I was tasked with directing a cast of talented characters. Our intent was to follow the mantra, Keep it simple and sell the story, and I believe we succeeded on both fronts. The story of the Loman family may have begun as an exploration of The American Dream and what it feels like to be lost “in the greatest country in the world” when it debuted on Broadway in 1949, but it has morphed over the ensuing decades to mean so much more than its original themes. We have become more sensitive to mental illness and the #MeToo movement, and with that Willy Loman’s plight has become more recognizable.

Chris Farmer played Willy as a sympathetic character who was not properly equipped with the tools necessary to build a sustainable life, lacking a true male role model. Chris allowed his Willy to stumble in the present and stand tall in his own mind. His wife, Linda, played by Mary Boothby-Brown, continually reminds Willy that he is “the handsomest man” who is “idolized by his sons” and that their final mortgage payment is “quite the accomplishment.” Mary’s Linda is strong and soulful as “she more than loves” Willy, having developed an “iron repression” to his mercurial nature. Expect to see much more of Mary on the RFA stage in future productions.

Sam Meehan and Owen Sinclair team up as the Loman brothers, Biff and Happy, respectively. Sam’s delicate, but deliberate, approach to Biff’s soul searching elicited a rawness rarely seen in amateur productions of this sort. When he was unleashed Sam’s Biff became the emotional center of the story. Owen’s “philandering bum,” Happy, shared a waywardness learned by a son who studied his father’s inadequacies. Owen’s stagecraft brought depth and sharpness to every scene.

Biff lays it out for Willy to understand in his language. It goes from a squabble to a squall in seconds.

The entire cast acted as cogs in this American tragedy. Dan Simonds’s stolid Charley reminds us that “Nobody dast blame this man” during his pointed monologue about the dreams of a salesman. Charley’s son, Bernard, played by Ben Andrews, acts as a contrast to Willy’s form of parenting. Ben, Willy’s brother, only visits in Willy’s mind, with whispers from the past. Les Hoekstra played Ben with his usual flair, entering and exiting each scene in a bubble of light. The Woman, proof of Willy’s infidelity, was played with a seductive charm by Tina Falasco; Ariel Clinch played Miss Forsythe, the target of Happy’s philandering ways; Mike Sherrod was Willy’s uncaring boss; and Emma Jacot-Descombes was the waiter in Frank’s Chop House.

Willy (Chris Farmer) and Linda (Mary Boothby-Brown) are hopeful things are getting better.

Val Zapolsky produced and Millie Hoekstra managed the production with their usual grit and focus. When God said, “Let there be light,” She clearly had Kelsey Meehan in mind. Kelsey’s lighting danced with Mike Schrader’s musical motifs to support the universal themes. Janice Adler’s artistic contributions gave us our backdrops, indicating the shifting back and forth between Willy’s mind and the concrete world. Gorgeous. Allison Steward, Anna Ross, and Amanda Christian rounded out the crew with their sound effects, lighting, and muscles.

The RFA has taken a step in rounding out its artistic fare by demonstrating that the public is ready for an occasional departure from the lightness of being. Thanks to the theater-going public for your attendance and support. You bring the arts to life.


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