Death of a Salesman is about Willy Loman, a traveling salesman who has worked hard all his life to create a legacy of greatness for his sons to emulate and build upon. This greatness rests not so much on education or cultivated intelligence, but upon a man’s innate charisma which Willy believes can be parlayed into networking skills and a successful career (which in turn is measured by who you know.) However, neither of Willy’s sons have lived up to his expectations and so the foundation upon which Willy has built his legacy bears examination. The inspection reveals cracks in Willy’s ethics and is the substance of this American Tragedy. The idea of a father’s legacy to his sons, more specifically the idea of the father doing his best to do what is best for his sons, was introduced in the interview with Michael Hackett, the director of The Man Who Had All the Luck and is a dominant theme in Death of a Salesman.
Whatever the original concept of Willy Loman’s physicality was when Death of a Salesman was first written, the image has been “owned” by Lee J. Cobb since Cobb played Loman in the film adaptation in 1966. Since then, audiences expect a bear of a man, a brutish, forceful man to play the role; and if a director chooses to cast against the Cobb-type, criticism is sure to follow. In this regard, Stacy Keach does not disappoint. He is what the audiences want: a mans whose volume in voice is a measure of his will. Neither Keach or Jane Kaczmarck (as Linda Loman) are the most transparent of performers: Listeners will hear both of the actors before they hear the characters; but both actors deliver what the audience wants: assertive and emphatic performances.