A reimagined new revival of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway, led by a black Loman family. Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke received high praise for their performances, and the already incredible script enjoyed extra richness because of the focus on the characters’ races. Critics did find the design elements less successful, and certain moments fell flat or were too heavy-handed; however, most found this remounting of a true American classic arresting and effective.
Variety Review of Death of a Salesman
In the new Broadway revival of “Death of a Salesman,” Wendell Pierce’s powerhouse performance firmly identifies Willy Loman as a tragic hero for these modern times. It’s a searing portrait of a working-class man who has struggled all his life to achieve. … If Willy should lose his job, he’ll lose that dignity, that respect, that place in society which defines him as a successful Black man in a white man’s world. There’s no doubt that casting a Black actor as Willy Loman (for the first time on Broadway, no less) adds a deeper dimension to this monumental role. … Under the careful direction of Miranda Cromwell, Pierce sensitively scrutinizes this deluded man’s foolish worship of the American Dream, which he narrowly interprets as material success. … Linda Loman is a character who can fade into the woodwork, just waiting for her great defining moment at the end of the play when she declares that “attention must be paid” to her success-driven husband. Not so in Sharon D. Clarke’s brilliant performance, which finds astonishing character nuances in this long-suffering but often underplayed wife-figure.
The New York Times Review of Death of a Salesman
The latest Broadway revival, which opened on Sunday at the Hudson Theater, goes wider [than previous revivals], a notably rich and mostly successful approach. For the first time in a major New York production, the Lomans are played by Black actors. Wendell Pierce, as Willy, is wrenching as he flails and fails to avoid his fate instead of slumping into it from the start. And Sharon D Clarke, as Linda, is so paradoxically shattering in her stoicism that she turns what is usually portrayed as unshakable loyalty into a kind of heedless comorbidity. Miranda Cromwell’s revival, based on one she directed in London with Marianne Elliott in 2019, does more than give us Black Lomans. … It also, crucially, puts them in a largely white world. … It’s therefore central to the effectiveness of the casting that it’s not colorblind. Neither the Black nor the white actors ignore race; they mine it, bringing their characters to fully specific and vivid life. … But what works to ground and intensify the performances does not always work for the production overall. Cromwell’s use of expressionistic devices like silhouettes and frozen poses to suggest Willy’s fragmenting consciousness seems obvious and unmoored. … In general, the balance of light and dark in this very dark play does not yet feel natural. … Yet nothing can stop the engine of the final scenes, sparking and huffing and pushing the play into great drama.
New York Post Review of Death of a Salesman
There are more tricks than exciting drama in the latest revival of “Death of a Salesman,” which opened Sunday night on Broadway. … None of these add-ons refresh or galvanize the story — they sedate it like theatrical Xanax. Revivals should shake things up…but in director Miranda Cromwell’s production from London they contribute an animatronic, distant quality to what can be a profoundly moving and reliably relatable play. The pieces don’t connect, and neither do we. This time around, a cast of black actors plays the Loman family, and that is the revival’s most enlivening aspect. The actors are not helped along by Anna Fleischle’s uninspired set…I was also put off by a narrow beam of light that shakily traverses the stage whenever the ghost of Willy’s older brother Ben (André De Shields) enters. … Nice songs, but not enough attention was paid to the basics.
Deadline Review of Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy of the American Dream gone sour, is revitalized and given room to encompass the Black experience in director Miranda Cromwell’s intriguing production opening at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway tonight. Boasting flat-out terrific performances – Wendell Pierce as Willie Loman and the amazing Sharon D Clarke as his wife Linda – this Death of a Salesman doesn’t so much reinvent Miller’s masterpiece as open its doors to perspectives that enrich the material. … Missteps aside, this Death of a Salesman offers up a vital, fresh take on an American classic, making it all the more American for its inclusiveness, and as classic as the towering performances of Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke.