"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Gobs of Gravitas (with a Side Order of Angst)

Phillip Seymour Hoffman does Willy Loman. Oh, baby.

Hoffman is a fun actor and is at his best in a meaty role. Doesn’t get much chewier than Willy Loman, does it?


1 Branco   ~  Mar 12, 2012 5:57 pm

Saw this opening night. The woman behind me was complaining that Hoffman didn't "project enough". Lady, he gets to do whatever he wants...

2 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 12, 2012 7:50 pm

How did you react to his performance? I've only seen Dustin Hoffman do Loman. Funny, but my initial reaction was that Hoffman, at 44, is way too young for the role. But then I read in the Times article that Lee J. Cobb, who originated the part, wasn't even 40 when he played Loman so what the hell do I know. I know that Cobb's performance was revered but also that Miller said Dustin Hoffman's interpretation was closer to what he had in mind when he wrote the part.

3 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Mar 12, 2012 8:14 pm

[2] Was Hoffman's the one with John Malkovich as "Biff"? If so..seemd wayyyy too hammity-ham-ham of a performance for my tastes. Lost all the subtlety of the character and was just a pathetic loser....heard that Brian Dennehy played Loman once, that would have been interesting. BD such a "huge" guy on screen, wonder if he pulled off Loman's complete defeat.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 12, 2012 9:05 pm

3) That's the one. Yeah, it was a big performance. Then again, I'm not sure there is so much subtlety in the character. It's a hammy role. You are right about Dennehy, though, he played Loman and was supposed to be terrific, as much of a dynamo as he was as Hickey in "The Iceman Cometh." Didn't see either and regret it.

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 12, 2012 9:21 pm

I saw Brian Dennehy do it in 1999. It was amazing, but in a word "exhausting." Glad I went, but a long night of bellowing.

I think Hoffman is probably closer to how the character was originally conceived: ethnic, outer-borough, possibly Jewish. And it is very rarely played that way.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 12, 2012 10:08 pm

Saw the Dustin Hoffman/John Malkovich version in college and was bemused by it. I agree with Jazz, Hoffman just sucked all the personal vision out of Loman's character and made him a cartoon loser. I heard about Dennehy's version and how amazing it was, wish I had seen it. It was discussed in class as a classic example of how a big man could be condensed to nothing by life and the performance he gave was something to learn from (as an actor). But I bet it Lee J. Cobb was the best ever.

Would you say that The Honeymooners was sort of a comedy version of Death of a Salesman? or vice versa?

7 Matt Blankman   ~  Mar 13, 2012 12:35 am

Yeah, I saw Dennehy and thought he was great. To me, Dustin Hoffman played it too nebbishy. Dennehy gave you a sense of a guy who had been a BMOC type as a young man, now facing the fact that he was a middle-aged loser. I like Philip Seymour Hoffman very much, but I have trouble seeing him in this part. I would have loved to have seen the '75 revival with George C. Scott.

My dad saw the original production with Cobb and Mildred Dunnock and Arthur Kennedy. He said he left the theater shattered and was depressed for weeks.

8 Boatzilla   ~  Mar 13, 2012 2:10 am

Looking forward to this. On my summer dream list (if I ever get to NYC) Liked the Dustin version very much....but I can understand the misgivings.

It seems like this role was created for an actor like Seymour Hoffman.

9 RIYank   ~  Mar 13, 2012 5:56 am

Hey, I saw the Hoffman/Malkovich production too. I wonder if I was in the theater with any of you.

10 Branco   ~  Mar 13, 2012 11:08 am

I'm not really qualified to review Hoffman's Loman, because I actually haven't seen any other versions of the play. Arthur Miller is my favorite playwright, and I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to read any more of his plays before seeing them performed. I missed the last time this one was on Broadway, and so I've steered clear of learning anything about it until it came back..

I've heard that the Dustin Hoffman version isn't the greatest... I actually just ordered the Lee J. Cobb one from Europe. The Frederic March version has never been released on DVD, which is a shame, because I'd LOVE to see that one.

11 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 13, 2012 1:20 pm

They used to make original recordings of Broadway productions. I remember checking them out on vinyl from the performing arts library at Lincoln Center as a kid. Sometimes they were abridged, other times it was the complete show. Which is an interesting way to experience a play. I own a record of Jason Robards doing "Iceman." It's powerful.

12 Matt Blankman   ~  Mar 13, 2012 1:35 pm

[11] I remember my Mom had a multi-LP boxed set of Richard Burton's HAMLET from '64. I used to use snippets of it between tunes on mix tapes. My favorite was bookending the Stones' "Before They Make Me Run" with Burton doing the "To be or not to be" soliloquy.

13 garydsimms   ~  Mar 13, 2012 2:13 pm

Haven't seen S. Hoffman's version yet, but he is certainly an intriguing actor. Saw Dustin (admittedly an unusual take, but he had the benefit of showing us that Loman was actually "small"); saw Dennehy, but felt he was chewing the scenery. Lee J's movie version was sublime. And while Miller is indeed a great playwrite, I'd slot him second behind O'Neil. (Just saw "Ah Wilderness" - his only comedy - at Arena Stage in DC. Absolutely great play.)

14 Matt Blankman   ~  Mar 13, 2012 2:39 pm

I've heard that the great character actor Thomas Mitchell did an excellent Loman after Cobb.

15 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 13, 2012 3:35 pm

12) NICE!

16 Matt Blankman   ~  Mar 13, 2012 3:37 pm

[15] Knew you'd like that one, bro.

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