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Fall Theater Review: Bay Street Theater's "Death Of A Salesman"

T.J. Clemente

David Manis with Carolyn Popp. (Photo: Lenny Stucker)

With a sensational Bay Street Theater standing ovation on opening weekend, this Death of a Salesman production will be talked about fondly for years. David Manis's dynamic and energetic portrayal of Willy Loman would be worthy of a Tony nomination if this production were on Broadway. This production at the Bay Street Theater brilliantly directed by Joe Minutillo is a most excellent opportunity to see a classic Arthur Miller play. Some license was taken in editing the play down to a comfortable one hour and forty-five minutes, other productions of this play have lasted over three hours.

The set designed by Mike Billings is instrumental in controlling the compartmental movements and intimate moments of the show. The lighting/sound/projection design by Dalton Hamilton also augments the verb and power of the show.

Willy Cappuccio, who plays both Bernard and Stanley, delivers his lines clearly and was liked by the opening night performance audience as was Rachel Feldman (Jenny/Letta). Also hearing the standing applause for a job well done was Tina Jones (Miss Forsythe) and Chloe Dirksen (The Woman). Keith Cornelius handled both the parts of Uncle Ben and Howard Wagner with such panache and skill that I was stunned to see there weren't two different actors. Neal Mayer, who plays Charley, also was part of the great chemistry that made this production of Death of a Salesman flow with distinct energy.

In every production there are actors who carry the show to the next level. In this category I happily place Carolyn Popp (Linda Loman), Scott T. Hinson (Happy Loman), Rob DiSario (Biff Loman) and David Manis (Willy Loman).

Scott T. Wilson plays younger brother Happy "Hap" Loman in a low key understanding way of all that is going on, but also with the light touch of a floating feather on the way down to landing somewhere. This is juxtaposed to the high-energy "Brando-like" portrayal of older brother Biff Loman by Rob DiSario who can and does command the stage and deliver his powerful lines most effectively.

Carolyn Popp is the heart of this production as Linda Loman. Using Arthur Miller's words Ms. Popp is the mother we all know, love, and admired throughout our lives. She is the loyal wife who fights the daily struggle to pay the bills, raise the boys, keeps her husband facing forward, and stay fiercely loyal to the very end. Thank you Ms. Popp I so enjoyed your talent!

Lastly, for a heavy content play to be convincingly successful the lead actor must bring something special to the stage. David Manis did. He charged like a fighting bull, he consoled like a wounded and concerned dad, he played complicated emotions brilliantly to Ms. Loman about the struggles too many families have with expenses. His Willy Loman was the salesman we all have known and watched. Manis is not reading lines, he is delivering thunderbolts from the gut, the heart, the soul, and mind of the hopelessness of decline.

To the purist, this production is not complete, but quite frankly I left the theater moved and in admiration for Arthur Miller's genius, and the skills of Joe Minutillo to make this Bay Street Theater Production of a Death of a Salesman a most memorable successful night.

Death of a Salesman can be seen Thursday, November 9 through Saturday, November 25. Tickets are $20 to $55.

Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For tickets, call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.

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