Up in the Athenaeum’s second-floor studio echoes the sound of one man slowly imploding. In its most avant-garde move yet, the Hypocrites take a straight-up approach to Arthur Miller’s most American of classics, “Death of a Salesman.” And in the process, the company breathes new life into a play that has been co-opted in recent memory by the hulking presence of Brian Dennehy in the title role of Willy Loman, first at the Goodman, later on Broadway, and currently on stage in London. Director Sean Graney goes for something different, casting a tallish beanpole with a slight middle-aged paunch named Bill McGough. The guy looks like every other schmo who’s reached the age of sixty and feels, justifiably or not, he has nothing to show for it. With a thin and gravely voice like Hal Holbrook, McGough is altogether infuriating—just as he should be. Time and again, he defies us to feel sorry for a man who’s shaped his life around delusions and half-baked truths. The rest of the cast—including Donna McGough (wife of Bill McGough) as Linda Loman, and Robert McLean and Ryan Bollettino as the Loman boys—does a fine job filling in the play’s emotional context, often to devastating effect. It’s a hell of a psychological workout, and at the end Graney gives us one last vision of Willy as he steps, literally, into his own grave. Talk about an image. (Nina Metz)
The Hypocrites’ “Death of a Salesman” plays at The Athenaeum Theater, 2936 North Southport, (312)902-1500, through October 16.