Judd Hirsch is now appearing as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman at the Manitoba Theatre Center in Winnipeg. He opened there Jan. 9 and will play the role at MTC through Feb. 1. Then the MTC/Mirvish co-production moves to the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, Feb. 7-March 22, with an official opening Feb. 11. Gloria Muzio (Other People's Money) directs the drama.
According to production spokesperson John Karastamatis, the Winnipeg engagement has already sold out completely, breaking the box office record set by (this is not a joke) Keanu Reaves' Hamlet.
This Salesman sparked a mild, quickly dissipated controversy, because it uses 7 American actors to complement 8 Canadian ones. "Canadian Actor's Equity approved the contract, but then they published this broadside, `MTC Betrays Canadian Artists,' which called for organizations to stop funding the non-profit Manitoba Center. Later this week, MTC will find out from the Canada Council where it stands as far as funding, but their attitude was always about finding the best people for the job, and there was real interest in seeing Judd Hirsch do Salesman." Karastamatis added that Equity is using this production to make a point: "It's hard for Equity to attack commercial producers because they don't rely on subsidies."
This first Toronto production of Salesman in 40 years also features Rochelle Oliver (Driving Miss Daisy, After Play) as Linda, Richard Clarkin as Biff, Jim Bracchitta as Happy and Leon Pownall as Ben. Also appearing are John Seitz (Krapp's Last Tape at Off-Broadway's CSC Theatre), Ted Atherton, Geoffrey Canter, Heather Hodgson, Tara Maria Manuel, Rod McLachlan and Gordana Rashovich.
Salesman has costumes by John Pennoyer, lighting by Robert Thoomson, sets by Stephen Olson, and sound/original music by Martha R. Desjardins. Judd Hirsch won two Tonys for his Broadway work in I'm Not Rappaport and Conversations With My Father, and has also appeared in Talley's Folly, Below The Belt and a recent NY revival of A Thousand Clowns. Even more recently, Hirsch starred in the Long Wharf production of Lyle Kessler's Robbers but could not move with the show to Off-Broadway because of his Toronto commitment.
Director Muzio says of Salesman, "[It] could have been written yesterday -- it feels that current to me with the stench of massive job losses, corporate restructuring and financial insecurity... What makes this play so...enduring is how close to the bone it cuts in terms of our search for identity and self-worth. We are still confusing our self-worth with how much money we make, what our title is, and when our last promotion was."
Arthur Miller's other plays include The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, After The Fall, Broken Glass, A View From The Bridge and The Crucible, which was recently turned into a feature film starring Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder.
For tickets (C$25-$75) and information on Death Of A Salesman, a Mirvish production opening Feb. 11, call (416) 872-1212.
--By David Lefkowitz