Death of a Salesman: Anthony LaPaglia’s Australian stage debut is well worth the wait

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Death of a Salesman: Anthony LaPaglia’s Australian stage debut is well worth the wait

Death of a Salesman Melbourne
Words by Staff Writer

Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winner Anthony LaPaglia's first performance on an Australian stage - let that sink in for a moment - has well and truly lived up to the hype.

First performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman continues to resonate with audiences worldwide due to its powerful themes, well-drawn characters, and profound commentary on the human pursuit of success and happiness.

The latest Australian production, directed with superb restraint by Neil Armfield, is a resounding success that stays true to its subject matter without losing an ounce of contemporary relevance.

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Set in post-World War II America, Death of a Salesman revolves around the life of Willy Loman, a devoted family man who has spent his entire adult life as a traveling salesman. Unfortunately, as he ages, his once-promising career unravels, leaving him grappling with disappointment, disillusionment, and the painful realization that he may never achieve the financial success he had hoped for.

LaPaglia knew Arthur Miller personally, they worked together on another one of the influential writer’s plays, and you can tell he performs the text with an intimate knowledge of how Miller wanted his characters to be depicted. Ultimately, seeing LaPaglia perform this role is a unique opportunity for Melbourne audiences.

Armfield’s direction captures the timeless and powerful exploration of the human psyche, the impact of the American Dream (as signified through the decaying bleachers that serve as the play’s backdrop) and the complexities of family relationships.

LaPaglia’s masterful depiction of Willy Loman’s tragic journey serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to reevaluate our own pursuits of success and happiness. Its value lies in no small part to its devastating depiction of masculinity, an uncomfortable gaze into the mirror for anyone who’s never lived up to their own calculated persona.

The production seamlessly shifts between past and present, as Willy’s memories and delusions intertwine, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Throughout the narrative, Willy’s internal struggles manifest in the form of conversations with his brother Ben and imagined encounters with his sons, Happy and Biff.

As audiences continue to grapple with the play’s themes, this production captures a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant piece of literature that reminds us of the fragile nature of the human spirit.

Buy tickets to Death of a Salesman here.