NEW YORK (Reuters) - A revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” by stage and film director Mike Nichols was applauded in reviews on Friday, with Nichols being praised for precise staging and star Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance winning over most critics.
One of this year’s most anticipated shows on Broadway, the new version of the classic American play first staged on the Great White Way in 1949 opened on Thursday night with Hoffman in the tragic role of traveling salesman Willy Loman and Andrew Garfield making his Broadway debut as his Willy’s son.
Nichols, 80, the director of films such as Oscar-winning “The Graduate” and a variety of award-winning plays, stuck closely to the visual and aural effects of the original production, pleasing critics in the process.
New York Magazine called the interpretation “a thunderous new production.” The Wall Street Journal said: “Mr. Nichols’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ is so eloquent in its alchemical simplicity as to right many of the play’s flaws and paper over the rest.”
Hoffman follows previous portrayals of Willy Loman by the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Brian Dennehy, Lee J. Cobb and George C. Scott, yet “it’s a tribute to his talent that you won’t feel inclined to compare him to any of his predecessors,” said the Wall Street Journal.
The New Yorker wrote “Hoffman, an eloquent package of virulence and vulnerability, finds all the crazy music in Willy’s disappointment.”
And the magazine ultimately concluded: “Cast to a T, and beautiful in all its scenic dimensions (with Jo Mielziner’s original, 1949 set design), this staging of ‘Death of a Salesman’ is the best I expect to see in my lifetime.”
The New York Times agreed Nichols had perfectly set the scene, “Mr. Nichols has created an immaculate monument to a great American play. It is scrupulous in its attention to all the surface that define time, place and mood.”
Yet some of the main performances were less convincing as a whole, as if “you are watching characters digitally woven together from different movies,” said the Times, adding that after an emotional, spine-tingling opening, the play “never quite achieves greatness on the stage this time around.”
“Death of a Salesman” was last staged on Broadway in 1999, winning the Tony Award for best revival of a play.
Reporting By Christine Kearney; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte