Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Death of a Saleslady"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi


by Ryan Landry
directed by James P. Byrne

Wilma Loman … Larry Coen
Lenny Loman … Bill Hough
Buffy Loman … Ryan Landry
Happy Loman … Scott Martino
Charlene … Olive Another
Mary Kaye … Afrodite
Howard Kaye … Margaret Ann Brady
Carlos … Ricardo Rodriguez
Dimples; Bernard … Pixie Parker

Having skewered numerous films, Ryan Landry and The Gold Dust Orphans have lately turned to the stage for their parodies and their current DEATH OF A SALESWOMAN didn’t have me barking as did PUSSY ON THE HOUSE or A T-STOP NAMED DENIAL, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as SALESWOMAN has the Orphans’ longest stretches of drama, yet, beginning with a BAD SEED that evenly divided between the farcical and the heartfelt. Not surprisingly, Arthur Miller’s Loman family have swapped genders: Wilma is a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman; husband Lenny is a devoted homebody in a wheelchair; daughter Buffy, once an aspiring cheerleader, is now a fortyish hag with a bastard daughter, having sold her earlier offspring to childless couples; her sister Happy is a mullet-haired closet lesbian; the Woman in Boston turns Chippendale Boy. SALESWOMAN may sound hilarious on paper but Mr. Miller doesn’t invite parody the way that Mr. Williams does (SALESWOMAN’S tweakings are laid over the original’s plot like transparencies) and Wilma, as played by Larry Coen, is immaculately dressed, coiffed and painted to resemble similar women selling cosmetics at suburban malls. If Mr. Landry conceived Wilma as a silly cow, Mr. Coen adds a cow’s dignity and bellowing rage especially when colliding with Mr. Landry’s Buffy, the obligatory Orphan slut, but then Mr. Coen is an actor in a dress and Mr. Landry, a dragster-clown --- only in the final mother-daughter showdown does SALESWOMAN kindle into enough of a tragedy before Camp rears its head, once again. In fact, I see no reason why Mr. Landry and director James F. Byrne didn’t aim for tragicomedy in the first place, starting with laughter and ending in tears, especially when Mr. Coen can clearly rise to the challenge with his own watering eyes, the diminutive Bill Hough is so moving as Lenny and Olive Another displays a sudden warmth in the midst of her Republican bitch next door --- but then Mr. Landry would have to revise enough of his writing style and own persona and for now he either can’t or won’t.

Thus, the Orphans are still firmly planted at the crossroads of how seriously they should take themselves as artists or, simply put, how sincerely they want their female characters to suffer (should Mr. Landry ever take on LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT would Mary Tyrone remain a morphine addict or sport a white “coke” nose?). Mr. Coen could point the way to drag dissolving into the traditions of the Asian or Elizabethan theatre, seconded by the Orphans’ reigning beauty Afrodite, who is never, ever mocked; should Mr. Landry continue trashing popular culture, then I look forward to further off-the-wall hilarity --- but if the two styles continue to be blended, then the results must be brave and true. Audiences will accept anything as long as they know the rules, in advance, and the Orphans needn’t be afraid of making audiences cry should the spirit ever move them --- a true clown knows that the richer the comedy, the deeper the well from which it has been drawn; Mr. Landry, however, is still tied to Thalia’s tackier apron strings.

"Death of a Saleslady" (2 February - 11 March)
The Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, 1254 Boylston Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 265-6222

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide