Read Death of a Salesman again, finally. One of the cool things to be noted in this play, that I think may be just literarily trendy but is still very cool: do you know what Willy sells? You may think you do, but you don’t. Miller never mentioned it. Happy said he had an “eye for color” and his boss asked him to turn back in his sample case, but otherwise we don’t know what Willy sells. This could have been for one of two reasons. One, because Miller doesn’t care what Willy sells, and information about this detracts from the plot, or two, because Miller wants to allow the director some sort of cursory, superficial hand in developing the characters for the play. Actually I think a combination of these forces may be at work. You can also see this kind of non-naming, leave-it-to-the-director sort of stuff in Albee. Check out The Sandbox: what does the musician play? I always thought it was a clarinet. My friends have told me a flute and a piano. Fact is Mr. Albee never told us what the musician is playing, nor anything about him except “young would be nice.” I always imagined a skinny black guy with a balding pate and a sour demeanor. You can imagine whatever you want.
One of best things about Death is that Miller works with characters that you, the audience, have seen before. Linda reminds me of my mom. Very much so. I think that’s what may make Miller timeless. He works & alchemizes with real people. That’s what makes him kick Odets’s ass …
Odets’s Awake and Sing, according to the prologue, is dated. I will go further and state that by and large it is a piece of shit.
BESSIE: Eighty thousand dollars! You’ll excuse my expression, you’re bughouse!
Granted, the play was written in 1933. Granted I don’t know any lower-class Jewish families who lived in the Bronx at that time. Granted I don’t know their patterns of speech or dialogue. Granted I’m just an undergraduate computer science major with a sharp cynicism. But when a line like that comes into a play, it can do NOTHING but shock the audience back out of the story and into the realization that THIS IS ONLY A PLAY. This is the cardinal sin of theater–to make it affected or fake. There is no reason to get up on stage and say this. And don’t pick on me because it’s only one line. Miller uses every damn line he writes, and so did Shakespeare. Odets is full of pre-existential bullshit like the line mentioned above. I hate him. I will kill him.