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Mind games

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Ron Smith, left, a Broadway resident, plays Willy Loman in a rehearsal with Kathleen Milligan, of Harrisonburg, as his wife Linda in “Death of a Salesman” at The Schultz Theater in New Market. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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JMU students George Dippold, left, of Harrisonburg, plays Happy Loman, with Austin Shifflett, right, of Linville, as Biff Loman in a scene with Kathleen Milligan, as their mother Linda in "Death of a Salesman" at The Schultz Theatre in New Market. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Stephen Trypuz, of Luray, plays Charley in a scene with Ron Smith, as Willy. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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JMU students George Dippold, of Harrisonburg, left, plays Happy Loman; and Austin Shifflett, on his knee, of Linville, plays Biff Loman. T.J. Stevens, of Fulks Run, plays the neighbor's son Bernard in a scene with Ron Smith, right, as Willy Loman at The Schultz Theatre in New Market. — Rich Cooley/Daily

'Death of a Salesman' a journey of lifetime for Schultz director

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

The story of Willy Lowman is a sad one, and from the title of the play, audiences will guess how it ends, but according to Jake DuVall-Early, director of The Schultz Theatre's latest play, it's worth the journey.

Written in 1949 by Arthur Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is the story of Willy's death.

"The whole play takes place in the last 24 hours," DuVall-Early said. "This is probably one of the darkest shows we've done at the theater so far."

At the beginning of the play, Willy, played by Ron Smith, arrives home from a canceled business trip worried about his job.

Willy's had a successful career until now, DuVall-Early said, "but now he's kind of reaching the end of his rope." He pressures his older son Biff, played by Austin Shiflett, to become a businessman as well, but perpetuates arguments whenever Biff tries to explain that he's just a normal guy, not meant for a successful life.

Willy's wife Linda, played by Kathleen Milligan, encourages Willy to ask his boss Howard, played by Tim Reger, to let him work closer to home instead of having to travel so much. She worries for Willy's sanity and health, but Howard refuses Willy's request and fires him.
DuVall-Early said the play's theme of dreaming for success in spite of life's challenges should resonate with today's audiences.

In the aftermath of losing a job that not only supports his family but also defines his status in life, Willy becomes depressed, questions his self worth and allows his grip on reality to slip.

"A lot of the second act takes place in Willy's mind," DuVall-Early said. Willy begins to imagine a lot of the scenes that unfold throughout the play.

Portraying the flashbacks as well as Willy's hallucinations on stage was a unique experience, DuVall-Early said, but he was up to the challenge.

"It's kind of one long run-on sentence," he said. Breaking up scenes to portray them on stage was a tricky task, but the nature of the script allowed him more control over how to play the story.

Duvall-Early, a theater/film student at James Madison University, has directed shows at Schultz before, but he said this will be his first full-length play. He chose this one because of the relationship between father and older son.

It's more a story of Willy and Biff's relationship, DuVall-Early said, but the other characters set the scene for Willy's downfall.

George Dippold plays Willy's other son Happy; Stephen Trypuz plays the neighbor Charley; T.J. Stevens plays Charley's son Bernard; Michael Gwin plays Uncle Ben; and Rick Krasneck plays Stanley.

Paige Fridell plays The Woman, and Abigail Reedy plays the dual roles of Jenny and Miss Forsythe.

"I've been wanting to do this for awhile, but when I first read it, I hated it," DuVall-Early said.

But will the audience fall for the story the way he did? He thinks so.

"Even though it was written so long ago," he said, "it's relatable to today."

If you go

• "Death of a Salesman" will take the stage at The Schultz Theatre at 9357 N. Congress St. in New Market from May 18 to 27.

• Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

• Tickets for adults are $10 reserved or $12 at the door. For students and seniors they're $8 reserved or $10 at the door.

• For more information, call 740-9119.

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