Death of a Salesman, American Players Theatre

Up-the-Hill Theatre
5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, Wisc.
June 10 – September 16, 2016

Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Kenneth Albers
Role: Charley

As the well-meaning neighbor Charley with the tragic Willy Loman (Brian Mani).

As the well-meaning neighbor Charley with the tragic Willy Loman (Brian Mani).

 Critical Response

“In contrast to the hyperactive Loman boys are their neighbors, the even-keeled and understated Charley (a very fine Johnny Lee Davenport) and his studious son, Bernard (Sylvester Little, Jr.).”
—Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (June 20, 2016)

“The four actors, as well as the supporting cast, created a magic that filled the rustic forest enclave.”
Dave Begel, (June 20, 2016)

“In a fascinating casting, African American actors play Charley and his son, Bernard, Johnny Lee Davenport and Sylvester Little, Jr., respectively. The Brooklyn born ‘whites,’ the Lomans, admire the work ethic of the African-Americans. Even with colorblind casting, this turns Miller’s American Dream into a dream of an ethnically diverse country in the 21st century.”
Peggy Sue Dunigan, (June 20, 2016)

“Charley and Bernard: Albers has cast black actors—Johnny Lee Davenport and Sylvester Little Jr.—to play, respectively, Willy’s neighbor Charley and Charley’s son, Bernard. Great move: It adds an entirely new dimension to Willy’s refusal to accept a job from a man of whom he’s always been jealous; just as Bernard’s success, when contrasted with Biff’s failure, now becomes even more dumbfounding to a Willy who can’t understand why his golden boy hasn’t similarly forged ahead.
sssssAs I’ve written previously, ‘Salesman,’ remains relevant to our own time, in which so many of us remain imprisoned by an American dream in which our inflated sense of what we deserve rarely matches who we are or what we accomplish. Add race to the mix—in a country where whites have long been accorded advantages reflecting the color of their skin rather than the content of their character—and it becomes even harder for millions of Willy Lomans to accept their failure. Hence politicians like George Wallace. Or the politics of rage afflicting our current election season.”

Mike Fischer, (June 20, 2016)

“Simple, Layered, Beautiful, Devastating, Go!!!”
@MadCityTheater, Twitter (June 20, 2016)

“Adding a new dimension to a familiar story, director Albers made the provocative choice to cast African American actors Johnny Lee Davenport and Sylvester Little, Jr. as the Lomans’ next door neighbors, Charley and Bernard. Setting Willy’s sense of entitlement in contrast to his African-American friends’ practical work ethic sharply exposes Loman’s irrational belief in his own white privilege. Simply by virtue of who he is and the color of his skin, Willy excuses his son Biff from stealing, cheating on tests and flunking out of school. He also instills the presumption that Biff will never have to work his way up to find success. In this brilliant new layer, it is even more perverse that Willy cannot humble himself to take a job from the much more successful Charley, played with exceptional compassion, depth and resonance by Davenport.”
Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus (June 23, 2016)

“The . . . characters and story are in the foreground, as they should be. And director Ken Albers draws vivid and poignant performances from his company. John Pribyl is the imposing and inscrutable Ben, Willy’s brother who appears to remind the tormented salesman about his life choices. Johnny Lee Davenport and Sylvester Little, Jr. are the father and son neighbors who offer a countervision of an American Dream that is actually realized.”
Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine (June 27, 2016)

“The uniformly excellent cast includes a few well­known APT veterans, some of whom live in Milwaukee and come to Spring Green for the summer. . . .
sssssThe final scene takes place at Willy’s gravesite. Linda moves a few paces into one of the aisles, where Willy is “buried.” Willy’s sons and best friend Charley (Johnny Lee Davenport) respectfully linger behind onstage. The audience envisions how lonely Linda will be without her husband. Speaking to the grave, she says she can’t understand why Willie would end his life just as all their debts are starting to disappear. ‘We were FREE,’ she says, not realizing that Willy has chosen his own path to freedom in a way that could finally end his pain.”

Anne Siegel, (June 2016)

“Here’s what you need to know about the current production in Spring Green: It might well be one of the best ever staged and certainly is one you should not miss this year.”
—William Wineke, (July 5, 2016) 

“The supporting performances are all first rate as well, with Johnny Lee Davenport the quiet and kind neighbor Charley and Sylvester Little, Jr. his bookish son Bernard.”
John Olson, Talkin’ Broadway, Regional Reviews: Chicago (July 20, 2016)

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