Last night we were caught in the downpour on our way to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman, one of my favorite plays. We huddled together under one tiny polka dot umbrella, a wedding favor from the wedding in which I was a bridesmaid almost a month ago. It was too tiny for one person, let alone two. When we hike the Coast to Coast we’ll have proper rain gear, but even without it in a NYC downpour, I was happy just to walk. I find myself longing to walk, more and more, as our trip approaches. I feel most strongly about this when I am sitting in my car on the evening commute. The morning commute, since I leave so early, is less than 12 minutes, hardly worthy of the word commute and for this region a striking anomaly; most folks are in the car at least an hour each way. On my longer 25 minute evening commute I settle into a book on CD (right now I am listening to the transcript of Schlesinger’s conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy), but given the option I would rather be walking. Walking is more enjoyable when you have a destination, some place where you would like to arrive.
During the play, I was struck by Hoffman’s aggressive, violent, and powerful portrayal of Willy Loman. In high school we took at trip to see Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehy and I don’t remember such a passionate portrayal. Perhaps its because I was sixteen and was preoccupied with the thrill of being let loose in the city for the day, to wander the theatre district with my friends and eat lunch at Sbarros before the show. In my recollection, Dennehy’s Willy seemed affable and normal until the audience uncovers Linda’s revelation of the hose. It was only after Linda identified Willy’s psychosis that we, the audience, could experience his unravelling; this is when Dennehy turned up the heat. With Hoffman, Willy began aflame. Perhaps it’s because I’m older, or because the times are much more dire (Dennehy had the role in 1999), but Hoffman’s Willy was a man in crisis; he was us. Happy continually reminds Biff, in turn reminding the audience, that Willy is only happy when he has something for which he can look forward. We aren’t that different from Willy.
According to the CBS morning show, a favorite of my husband’s, they did a segment on vacation. We are happiest right before vacation; it’s the anticipation of vacation that makes us more productive and invigorated. Frequent vacations and frequent breaks are what keep us motivated, in love and alive – this is why we’re headed on the Coast to Coast.