Amazing things come in tiny packages at The Pear Avenue Theatre

We were recently invited to attend a show at the most darling theater in Mountain View.  Started in 2002 and tucked away in the back of some warehouses, the tiny Pear Avenue Theatre (seats about 40) apparently has access to some of the best talent in the Bay Area.  I was not thrilled to be going out in the freezing temperatures Friday evening, but I am now very excited to have found this theater and look forward to seeing more shows there.

Currently they are playing Death of a Salesman, the classic Arthur Miller drama that takes place in the 1940s and introduced the world to Willy Loman.  I have studied this play several times over the years but have never seen a live production; my 19 year old daughter, who attended with me, did not know anything about the story – and I had not told her anything beforehand, afraid that she would decline my invitation.  But when we left the theater she was quite affected, and though she said she was emotionally worn out by the play, she really liked it.

I was in love as soon as I walked in and saw how tiny the place was.  I have been to other extremely tiny theaters before, and for some reason these venues seem to attract the highest level of talent.  The set was the very detailed interior of a bi-level house, comprised of a kitchen, downstairs master bedroom, and the boys’ room upstairs.  The full area of the theater was put to use as Uncle Ben often stood at the top of the bleachers to speak to Willy, and other characters also ran up and down the bleachers.  The stage was right at the feet of our chairs, giving the feeling of being directly in the middle of the action.

I cannot imagine a more perfect production of this particular show.  Every single actor played their characters beautifully.  I keep thinking, “Particularly impressive was Don DeMico as Willy, oh but also Alex Shafer as Ben, but also Larry Raboy as Charlie, and Jeffrey Adams was awesome as Happy, but Jeff Clarke really pulled it out as Biff, but I can’t forget Jackie O’Keefe in her heartbreaking portrayal of Linda Loman…” So who do I single out?  I cannot. Every single character was played individually, given fantastic personalities and their own physicalities, with… okay, Don DeMico as the star will have to get some special credit here.  In this play Willy Loman became very personal and familiar to me, for the first time.  DeMico did not play Willy as a loser, but as a man who is suffering great losses.  An aging man losing control of his career, his family, his mind, and the entire make-believe world he had constructed for himself.  It was heartbreaking to watch this man, who had had so many dreams for himself and his family, finally realize (true or not) that he had accomplished nothing, would never accomplish anything, and that this legacy would be passed on to his sons.  Don DeMico brought a new dimension to the character for me, creating a man that we all – especially here in Silicon Valley – are familiar with.  The man the world has passed by, the people who took just a couple years too long to change with the times, those people for whom time has suddenly run out.  Rounding out the cast but not to be ignored even in these smaller parts are Michael Rhone as Bernard, Lance Fuller as Howard & Stanley, Sarah Griner as The Woman & Miss Forsythe, and Kerry Michelle Smith as Letta & Jenny.  All were amazing – and I don’t give compliments without reason.

The intimacy of the theater brings the emotions even closer.  My daughter said she often felt awkward when the Loman family was yelling at each other, as if she were right there eavesdropping on something she shouldn’t.  She kept feeling like she didn’t belong there listening, as if she should leave.  And that is how you should feel when you see this play.  The heartbreakinging climax was a loud, sudden, devastating presentation, and was a great introduction to the final, poignant scene.

It appears that The Pear Avenue Theatre Company specializes in the classics, which is fine, because so many of these dramas are rarely seen live these days.  I had not looked forward to spending my Friday night with Willy Loman, but this experience changed my mind.  I feel very grateful to have seen this production, I am thrilled that my daughter was introduced to the play (and enjoyed it immensely), and I’m terribly excited to have found the theatre.  We will definitely be back and I hope you find a chance to experience this little gem as well.

Death of a Salesman
February 25 – March 20
The Pear Avenue Theatre
1220 Pear Avenue, Unit K
Mountain View, CA 94043

1 Comment so far

  1. archphoenix (unregistered) on February 26th, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    If you like small theatre you should also check out Dragon Theatre
    in Palo Alto. They’re Pear’s unofficial sister company and do
    lesser seen works. Their recent production of Turn of the Screw was
    outstanding! Looking forward to seeing Salesman next weekend!

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