Philip Seymour Hoffman is too young to play Willy Loman, the worn-out failure in Mike Nichols’s new revival of Arthur Miller’s masterful tragedy Death of a Salesman. Despite his drooped posture, crippling exhaustion and inability to stand proud—not to mention his preppie haircut, white as snow—he often looks no older than the two actors playing his sons. Still, he’s such an inventive and resourceful young character actor that he is never less than fascinating. To paraphrase the most famous line in the play, attention must still be paid.
Thank goodness Mr. Nichols is so obviously respectful of this high-water mark in American theater that he is reluctant to change, modify or jazz it up in any way to suit contemporary audiences. He has even restored much of Jo Mielziner’s moody set design, Alex North’s somber music and Elia Kazan’s electrifying direction from the original 1949 Broadway production starring the incomparably powerful Lee J. Cobb—all to brilliant effect, illuminating a sad, deeply analytical portrait of the death of the American Dream. And if Mr. Hoffman is not Lee J. Cobb or even Brian Dennehy in the latest Broadway revival, he serves the play in an oddly benevolent way. Read More