'Death of a Salesman' at Austin Playhouse

Feb 22, 2017

Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential America play, so it might not seem like a natural fit for Irish director Peter Sheridan. But Sheridan is excited about the opportunity to direct the play for Austin Playhouse. "They were talking to me about Bloomsday, because obviously the fit between me and Bloomsday seems kind of perfect -- it's a play set in Dublin... but I wasn't available for those dates," Sheridan says. "And they just happened to say to me, 'We're doing Death of a Salesman next,' and I said, 'God, I'd love to do that!'."

And when he learned that Austin Playhouse was planning to do the play with an African-American cast as the Loman family, Sheridan grew even more eager. "I thought... that could be a really, really interesting take on the story," Sheridan says. Directing Death of a Salesman also meant that he'd get to work with Austin actor Marc Pouhé, who's playing Willy Loman in this production. "This is a great, great stage actor," Sheridan says of Pouhé. "He's as good as I've worked with in forty years."

Pouhé's been making a habit of playing iconic roles in recent years -- before taking on Willy Loman, he also played Othello and Cyrano de Bergerac. "In the last couple of years, I get offered certain roles and I'm like, 'Well yeah, that'd be great. I never thought of that,'" Pouhé says. "I mean, I would never think of playing Willy Loman."

Though a couple decades younger than the character, Pouhé has found it easy to slip into the skin of the 63-year-old Loman. "You find the voice, you find the heaviness," he says. "You embody things, a stiffness in the legs. You understand why somebody walks a certain way." And, as Sheridan points out, the original Willy Loman, Lee J. Cobb, was still in his thirties when the play debuted on Broadway. "He was thirty-seven, playing a sixty-three year old character," he says. "I love that. I love when you break the rules."

Death of a Salesman runs through March 12 at Austin Playhouse.