Monday, April 24, 2017

The Price


While Arthur Miller’s 1968 play is not generally considered among his best, this is its fourth Broadway revival and the second by Roundabout Theatre. Clearly, it has its advocates. It stands out from most of Miller’s plays in that there is quite a bit of humor, at least in the first act, and it is told in real time on a single set. It has four juicy roles that, in this case, are filled by a starry cast. Mark Ruffalo plays Victor Franz, a NYC cop nearing 50, who is in the attic of the townhouse where he grew up, waiting for a furniture dealer to arrive to make an offer on all the old-fashioned heavy furniture stored there. He is joined by his wife Esther (Jessica Hecht), who has never fully accepted the limited expectations her marriage has brought. The furniture dealer who eventually arrives is Gregory Solomon (Danny DeVito), an 89-year-old man, who provides both comic relief and wisdom. We learn that Victor has been estranged from his elder brother Walter (Tony Shalhoub) since their father’s death 16 years ago. The Depression left their father a hollowed-out man after he lost all his money, his wife died, and the family was forced to move into the attic of their townhouse. While Walter stayed in medical school and became a wealthy surgeon, Victor dropped out of college to care for his father, gave up his dream of being a scientist, lived with his father in dire poverty until joining the police force. Victor has attempted to contact Walter to notify him about selling the family furniture, but Walter has not returned his calls. After lots of back and forth, Victor and Solomon reach a deal. Solomon is in the midst of paying Victor in $100 bills when Walter suddenly arrives, ending Act One. Most of the overlong second act is the confrontation between Victor and Walter, during which old grievances are aired and new realizations are formed. Tony Shalhoub, resplendent in his camel hair coat and shiny suit, is superb as the smooth-talking Walter, perhaps the most complex character. The role of Esther fits Jessica Hecht like a glove and she gives one of her best performances in years. Casting Danny DeVito as Solomon was a stroke of genius. It is hard to believe that this is his Broadway debut. Though tiny in stature, he is a commanding presence. Mark Ruffalo, an actor I greatly admire, does not seem entirely comfortable in the role of Victor, although his performance improves as the play progresses. Derek McClane’s wonderfully cluttered set has dozens of pieces of furniture hanging from the ceiling, but has no walls so we see a city skyline of water towers against a cloudy sky. Sarah J. Holden’s costumes are perfection. Unlike Ivo van Hove’s recent versions of A View from the Bridge and The Crucible, director Terry Kinney has taken the play at face value, rather than attempting to force his stamp upon it. Miller doesn’t need gimmicks. Running time: two hours, 40 minutes including intermission.

No comments: