Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III Explore the American Dream Through a Black Lens in Death of a Salesman | Playbill

Special Features Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III Explore the American Dream Through a Black Lens in Death of a Salesman

The two actors return to Broadway in Arthur Miller’s acclaimed work.

Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III
Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III Roberto Araujo

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman takes place in the 1940s when the American Dream became defined by the rise of consumerism—but what does it mean in 2022?

This new revival, transferring from London’s West End to the Hudson Theatre under the direction of Miranda Cromwell, gives modern audiences a fresh perspective. Sharon D. Clarke and Wendell Pierce reprise their Olivier-nominated roles of Linda and Willy Loman. Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III newly step into the roles of Biff and Happy Loman (respectively), sons of the dutifully married couple, making this the first Broadway production of the work to feature the Lomans as a Black family.

“I was both surprised and really excited about a chance to jump into a classic. To be a part of making history and to tell this story through the eyes and the heart of a Black family feels like a special thing to be doing on Broadway,” says Belcher.

Belcher is also looking forward to inspiring the next generation with this production. “I'm really excited for the little Black and Brown boys and girls who will be in the audience and will be seeing this play for the very first time. It will feel like this story is for them.”

Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III
Khris Davis and McKinley Belcher III Roberto Araujo

Throughout the play, the Lomans’ circumstances challenge the value of the American Dream, but Davis believes the heart of the American Dream is timeless. “The American Dream, as it pertains to a Black family, a Black man, or a Black woman from the 1940s to now, has always been about having the same right to freedom and access,” says Davis.

“It’s about having a piece of history that you can pass down. It's the same thing for everybody, and that’s what's interesting about this play. Willy's not asking for anything different than what anybody else has. He's asking for freedom and respect.” But, as the family grows fixated on their perceived lack of success, the patriarch takes out his frustrations on his loved ones, forcing them to carry the burdens of his delusions.

“The things we're unpacking in this play, especially through the lens of a Black family, are things that we've recently started to unpack within our community, a conversation around mental health,” says Davis. “These are conversations around acceptance for thinking different from our family structures and the societal expectations that we put on ourselves. It’s about unpacking family traumas and finding the truth.”

Photos: See Production Photos of Broadway's Death of a Salesman

 
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