WILKES-BARRE — So many things have gone wrong in Willy Loman’s life. He’s not a successful salesman. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his two sons. Even the garden he planted is unlikely to grow.
Despite all his problems, his wife remains steadfast in her devotion to him.
“He describes her as his rock,” said Carol Warholak Sweeney, of Shavertown, who portrays Linda Loman in Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”
“She’s there to protect him too, because she sees how he’s going downhill and can’t accept the changes in his life.”
“This takes place in the ’40s,” Sweeney said. “We’re looking at that time period when a woman never gave up on her man.
“Linda is the strength in the show, the glue that keeps everybody together,” Sweeney continued. “I ‘plain Jane’ her down; she can’t afford a manicure or other pretty things, but she has inner strength. She tries to steer her sons in the right direction. At the end, she’s left alone at his (Willy’s) grave site.”
Although Linda is faithful to the end, her love isn’t enough to save her troubled husband — a man who tried to live the American dream, and failed.
Some audience members may find fault with Willy and his shortcomings, among them a pride that won’t let him accept help and start over. But director Richard Kramer says the society of the time has to share some of the blame for Willy’s desperation. Similar despair occurs today, Kramer said, and again it’s not the fault of the individual.
“If they’re underemployed and struggling to make ends meet, or unemployed, they shouldn’t blame themselves,” Kramer said.
The play “holds a mirror up to our society,” he said. “That’s the main reason why it resonates.”
“It’s classic theater,” Sweeney said. “There’s so much people can identify with. You leave with sadness for Willy and identify with him on some level. Maybe someone you knew — your father, your uncle, a friend — was always full of hope but never achieved his goal.”
“It’s a fantastic look at the search for the American Dream,” Sweeney said, “and how it goes wrong.”
The play, which won a 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, continues through Feb. 25 at Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre. A talk-back with Arthur Miller scholar Stephen Marino, Ph.D., will follow the Feb. 18 matinee.
“He did a good job after (another Arthur Miller play) ‘The Crucible,’” Kramer said. “I’m really looking forward to his discussion this year.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.