Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Death of a Salesman

Bag & Baggage Productions
September 23 - October 11, 2009

Review by peanutduck

Marion Rossi’s stoop-shouldered Willy Loman commands the stage admirably; unfortunately, a subtle whininess pervades production, and only a small-scale portrait of a pathetic man is created, blocking large-scale tragic theme of deceptive American Dream. The Woman’s school age appearance lends distracting connotations; night-scene lighting overly dim; seats obscure floor-level action.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Bag and Baggage company put on an impressive production of this classic in American theater. I saw tonight's performance and was blown away by the powerful emotions of this tragedy. Marion Rossi gave an excellent performance as Willy Loman. He was very believable as a man whose mind and family is unraveling because of his lies. Maggie Chapin successfully portrays Linda Loman, the enabling yet oppressed wife who's trying to rationalize her husband's and sons behavior. Notable performances were also given by William Goblirsch as Biff and David Heath as Charley.
I saw A-R-T's final dress of All My Sons. While I found it to be an equally depressing and relevant story, the acting was unbalanced. In my humble opinion, some of the A-R-T cast flat-lined and never tapped into the emotional depths that B&B's cast did.
I encourage Portland's theater community to venture out to the "hinterland" and see for yourselves. You won't be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I got tickets via the pdxbackstage offer and decided what the hell, a little roadtrip won't kill me. I was surprised: The Venetian isn't in the middle of nowhere. The theatre is beautiful and modern and comfortable and huge, and there is a bar. It is right on the MAX line. You can drink beer while watching the show. They pay their actors better than most companies in the state. The show was great, with some really excellent performances. This very well may be the region's best kept secret. -Kyle

Anonymous said...

A plush, comfortable theater, with the most luxurious restrooms of any theater that I have ever seen! But can Hillsboro support a 400 seat professional theater ? Particularly one the presents well-made plays that are more challenging than the usual musicals and corn-ball comedies that litter so many community theater stages? I hope so. I didn't love the production but I do love that they believe so much in what they are doing.
If readers on this space don't support bold financial gambles like this than who will?

Anonymous said...

The B&B p/r machine always mentions on these posts how they pay better than most theaters. If I may be so brash, how much do they pay?
Signed,
Curious

Anonymous said...

Well, hopefully the people who live out here.

Lots of good theater going on in Hillsboro right now - HART has Moon Over Buffalo on, and it's one of the best we've had in recent years....

So hey, come on out to the burbs! The drive doesn't kill US. And as you say, both theaters are right on the MAX line.

Bag and Baggage Productions said...

Bag&Baggage offers a staggered payscale for actors: Supporting, Principal, Featured and Guest Artist...without divulging too much of the personal contracts offered to the actors, and given that different cast sizes have an impact on pay, I can tell you, generally, that the pay for Supporting Actors is $600 - $850+, the pay for Principal actors is $800 - $1,000+, Featured Actors is $1200 - $1500 and Guest Artists is $1500+.

We are pretty sure that is a good wage for the region...right? Maybe I am doing bad math (wouldn't be the first time...)

We are proud that we offer a competitive wage, and use the fact as a way of trying to attract the most experienced and best trained actors in the region to come out and audition for us. For many Portland based actors, Hillsboro may as well be on the far side of the moon, so we know that we need to offer a good wage to try and draw some of the talent out of Portland. We do hire a lot of Washignton County-based actors, and most of the cast of DoaS are "locals" but we know that, if we are to survive as a professional company in the burbs, we have to pay for travel time from the big bad inner city!

I really am sorry if it feels like we, or our supporters, are "pushy" about the fact that we pay a competitive wage, but hey, we are proud of it!!!

It is really useful for folks in the greater theatre community to know that we take paying our artists seriously. In fact, our Board of Directors has a policy that makes us review the pay offered by the Portland metro area broadly and base or wages on the higher end of that scale. In fact, it is our #1 Organizational Value: that, as an organization, we value the talents and skills of all of our artists and will pay a highly competitive wage for those skills and talents.

I would also add that we have comparable pay for production and design artists as well, offer paid internships for local high school students...we are proud of that, too!

Scott P

Jan Tatom said...

Awesome showing of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman!! From set design, lighting to incredible acting. This one should not be missed. It is well worth your drive to Hillsboro's beautiful Venetian Theatre.
Maggie Chapin is the best I have ever seen her, and the interaction between Goblirsch and Rossi is magnificent. You will be completely wrapped up in this family's life.
A MUST see show.

Anonymous said...

I saw the opening of Bag & Baggages' "Death of A Salesman" last night and I am pleased to admit that I was very suprised. The performances were admirable, and I sincerely respect any actor who ventures to take on the role of Willy Loman. Although I may not have always agreed with some of his choices, I thought Mr. Rossi did a wonderful job as did Ms. Chapin. Bag & Baggage should be very proud of the work they did for this show and how faithfully they interpreted the play.
I have my issues with some of the staging and the design elements of the show. I was never really very sure what the design was trying to convey, and I had wished that instead of trying to fill that huge caverness void of the Venetian theatre with long peices of fabric (which did not convey buildings or skyscrapers as indicated by the dialogue) the production team would have used that caverness element to their advantage. Until I stood up to leave, I didn't even know there was a wooden floor in the house.
I also felt very strongly that the venetian is not well suited to having actors perform on the audience level. There was a lot of blocking that led down to the front of the stage where dialogue and entire people were lost. Especially when Biff ventured down with a flashlight to retrieve the rubber hose. If I hadn't read the script, there is no way I would have known what he was doing there.
Aside from these trifling complaints, a commendable effort and a worthwhile show. I proudly support the efforts of professional theatres not based in the Portland area (like Bag & Baggage and the Salem Repertory Theatre) and I strongly beleive that its these theatres that are doing the best and most effective work right under the noses of Portland.

Anonymous said...

We saw the Sunday matinee on September 27. It was a stunning performance. This play is so very well known that it is a real challenge to present it in a manner that does justice to the text. The direction did just that, and more. But, central to the quality of the performance was the excellent acting by the entire cast. Marion Rossi and Maggie Chapin had us in tears several times. This was a memorial afternoon, and would compete with any theatre in Oregon. It is wonderful to have such a gem of a company in the valley. Paul Farber

cate said...

City girl that I am, I confess I dragged myself out to deepest Hillsboro expecting amateur-night. Wow, was I humbled! There is not a single weak link in Bag and Baggage's strong, resonant production of Death of a Salesman. At last, cast and director have been brave enough to rely on the text itself and bring us real, credible characters, rather than stressing "themes," and striking poses. Ironically--and because clearly each actor has mined the text and created a 'backstory' that lends conviction to even the smallest role (without hamming or overindicating)--these themes come through, all by themselves, and strike us to the heart with their relevance to our sad, self-deluding human condition. I hate to pick out any one player, but I have to say that, in Maggie Chapin's stellar performance, I finally saw a Linda Loman with whom I could empathize (I've wanted to kick this character in the past!); Chapin's revelation of Loman's deep reserves of strength, alongside her heart-wrenching pathos, simply blew me away.
One caveat, which has nothing to do with production or performances:I'd advise audience members to try to sit a few rows back. I was in the front row, and the width of the stage made me feel occasionally I was watching a tennis match. But frankly that was a small price to pay. And this production is so good that ALL seats should be filled, in every part of the house.
Deepest Hillsboro? I've learned my lesson, and I'll never think that way again. As the Michelin guidebooks say of tourist sites removed from the beaten track, The Venetian theater "is worth a detour." And then some. Don't let Hillsboro's gain be us Portland city folks' loss.
Cate Garrison

Vreneli said...

The Bag & Baggage production of "Death of a Salesman" on Saturday was powerful and moving. The fine direction and strong performances by the talented cast engaged the audience and allowed them to connect with the characters and empathize with their struggles and pain. It is worth a trip to Hillsboro to experience this company's staging of Arthur Miller's classic. VRF

Anonymous said...

Question: Has the flurry of comments about the show on this site had any affect on ticket sales?

Leslie said...

Bravo to Bag & Baggage for a beautiful production of Salesman. This is a show that everyone knows - from high school english class if nothing else - and it's a daunting task for any company to try and make it fresh and engaging. With this production i felt like I was hearing the story for the very first time. Scott Palmer's direction gives the audience a very intimate and touching character-driven look into the private lives of the Loman family. The design elements are simple and they beautifully help to focus everything back to the characters and their story. Marion Rossi and Maggie Chapin give warm, subtle, performances that drive the show and keep the audience engaged every moment - and the entire cast works their butts off from curtain to curtain to maintain the very real portrait of WIlly's world.
We all know the ending, it's in the title, yet Bag & Baggage's production had me hoping that maybe Willy would make a different choice, and when the inevitable ending came I totally believed and understood his choice and his journey.

If you've not seen it - GO!! I traveled from Salem to see the show and would do so again.

Leslie Grasa

Anonymous said...

I saw the show last Thursday evening. This production was top notch. The entire company was excellent, and frankly Maggie Chapin as Linda Loman broke my heart. Tight, gorgeous performance on her part. Very worthy of a drammy, if only Hillsboro was included...

On top of it, there were 50 high school kids in the theatre that night, having received free tickets from a program of Bag & Baggage, and they were riveted for the entire 2:40 hours. Amazing, and a testament to the entire production.

Not to be missed.

Anonymous said...

When the play ended tonight the audience was silent, then applauded appreciatively then sat .. and sat .. in their seats before getting up to exit the theater. It seemed many were moved by Bag & Bsaggages' performance - and it was very well attended for a Thursday evening in Hillsboro. A show of hands at the beginning of the performance revealed that for about half the audience this was their first time to the Venetian Theater. I am sure for many it won't be the last as director Scott Palmer and his wonderful cast did justice to this amazing play. Congratulations B & B - to the actors who played Willie, Linda, Biff and Hap especially - you are a great gift to the Portland area.

Anonymous said...

I did not find this show to be as astounding or emotionally charged as most people here. The set was a litter of fabric and lumber, piled up to fill the space. The 'doors' of the 'walls' were inconsistently used, the boxes were awkward and overbearing. Action was lost between characters because the seats are at eye level. The lighting always seemed to be about 5 seconds off of it's cue. None of the acting moved me to any emotion other than annoyance. Accents should have been nixed since they couldn't be consistent. It was sub-par community theater through and through. Five minutes into the second act my impatience had taken over and I could only hope that Willy offed himself as soon as possible. I absolutely appreciate the time and passion put into the show by the cast and crew, and am impressed by the company's move to do such a classic and daring play. Unfortunately, much was lost in this particular production and I know that I will not be spending my time or money going to the Venetian again.

Dallas said...

as a loyal b&b patron, i have to say that i am impressed with this latest production. a lot of new and old faces graced the scene bringing ultimate relevance and "real-ness" to a script that is often littered with larger thematic heavy-handedness. i believe that the talents of the actors and the artistic staff are on display fully in this gritty performance piece and the stripping away of the pretense behind "a great American play about the American Dream" makes this production personal. it was easy as an audience member to see the connection between the characters and the actors portraying them on stage.
i agree with the previous statement made about the possibility that this is one of the best kept secrets in the Portland Theatre market, and i can only hope that more and more patrons begin to realize that great Theatre happens outside the portland city limits.
as far as the comments about this being "community theater," all i have to say is...point me to that community because they must be putting on some fantastic shows! really, i have yet to be disappointed with B&B productions, and surely they will continue to put on top quality theatre whether or not this website's patrons decide to see it or not...