English In Real Life: Fessenden Alumnus Christopher Lloyd Takes on Willie Loman

Fessenden Alumnus Christopher Lloyd Takes on Willie LomanFortuitous timing-  this is too good an opportunity to pass-up- a chance to plug one of my favorite plays and an opportunity for anyone familiar with (or interested in learning) to think and reflect on one of America’s great plays, Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

I stumbled across “A Surprise of a Salesman: Christopher Lloyd” earlier this morning immediately flashing to images of Fessenden School Alumnus Lloyd in his Reverend Jim (television’s Taxi) and Dr. Dr. Emmett Brown (Back to the Future movie franchise) roles.  How the hell can he play Willie Loman, I judged.

All I can say after reading is ‘wow, son-of-a-bitch, I bet he can.’  Lloyd comes across as an actor’s actor committed to his craft, play write, and characters.

From The New York Times (A Surprise of a Salesman: Christopher Lloyd):

“…when Mr. Lloyd was given the opportunity by a small New England theater company to play nearly any part he desired, his choice was almost as improbable as the notion of a time-traveling DeLorean sports car. He selected Willy Loman, the crumbling patriarch of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman…

…’I thought about it overnight, and I just sort of — ‘Death of a Salesman.’

‘The first act feels like a three-act play, it’s so full of life and situations,’ Mr. Lloyd said. ‘And then there’s a second act. Which is even worse.’

Mr. Stettler [producing director, Weston Playhouse] said the key to Mr. Lloyd’s success in the role was ‘the breadth of his humanity.’ He continued: ‘If Willy becomes a foolish or hateful character, the play doesn’t work. You have to see that this is a good person gone wrong, and Chris has never thrown cheap gags or tics or humor where it doesn’t belong.’

More important, Mr. Stettler said, is that “Death of a Salesman” requires ‘an actor who still has the memory and the stage power to loom.’

Mr. Lloyd said the memory part of the equation did not come easy for him. (‘Some people have quick retention,’ he said. ‘I’m not one of those.’)

But growing older, he said, has compensated him in other ways. ‘You become a little more understanding when you’re faced — maybe not literally, but close enough to connect with Willy’s terrors,’ he said. ‘Ten years ago I don’t think I could have taken it on. Aging does help.’

I would love to see the experience and milage Lloyd brings to the role.

“Death of a Salesman” isn’t warm and fuzzy and I get flack from friends family and colleagues about my appreciation for doom and gloom. Willie is, after all, trapped and breaking down.  But, I can think of few other more worth while, better, more thoughtful, considerations of what it means to work for a living and how and where to find value in an American life.  In America sometimes you get a second act; sometimes you don’t.

Appreciate it if you’re lucky enough to see Lloyd in the role or if you get to read it this year.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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