BWW Review: Jarrott Productions THE PRICE is Worth The Cost
It looks like THE PRICE is about the how much a retired antique dealer is willing to pay for an apartment full of furniture that's been left by its owner to gather dust. What it's really about is the sacrifices we're willing to make that others may not put the same value on. It's about how we live with those choices. It's about being challenged by the choices we make in the face of the circumstances we believe we've been dealt and coming to peace with them. Or not.
Victor Franz (Scott Galbreath) is selling all of his parents belongings. They're razing the building where his once wealthy family lived, and he's called in Gregory Solomon (David Jarrott) an antique dealer, to appraise the furniture and make an offer. Victor's wife Esther (Amanda Cooley Davis) who interrupts the reminiscing Victor in his father's apartment, makes clear to Victor that she is unhappy with their situation. Victor has sacrificed his promising education for a job on the police force and relegated much of his adult life to supporting his depressed father, who never recovered financially or emotionally from the crash of 1929. While Victor has sacrificed, so has Esther, and she's rightly encouraging (nagging?) Victor to finally decide what to do with his life, now that he is able to retire. She's also hoping the sale of Victor's father's furniture will be lucrative enough to get them ahead just a little.
Victor's brother Walter (Rick Smith)has made his choices, too. He left his father and family to pursue his own success, schooling himself and then becoming one of New York's most successful surgeons. The two brothers have been estranged, and to be fair, Victor has spent the day doggedly trying to reach Walter so that they can complete the sale of their father's things and split the earnings. In the middle of it all, the 89 year old antique dealer, Mr. Solomon, weaves himself in and out, a sort of moral barometer for everyone involved.
When Walter does arrive we learn a paltry five dollars he sent his father each month was only meant to supplement the somewhat meager earnings their father still had - of which Victor knew nothing about and it's why he wouldn't loan Victor $500 for his education when asked. His actions have been perceived by Victor as selfish, yet Walter feels he's made choices for which he's paid a price as well, in the loneliness and divorce, and an eventual nervous breakdown in sacrifice for a life dedicated to his business.
The chasm between these two brothers is too wide, and even in Walter's earnest offerings to support his brother in achieving some manner of success, Victor simply refuses. He's suspect of Walter's offers and more importantly, refuses them on his own self-sabotaging, ideological foundation. Much as Walter and Esther attempt to support Victor in other options to improve not only his own life, but the financial return on his father's belongings, his stubborn dignity and integrity won't allow it. The brothers don't reconcile, and in the emotional battle that ensues, somehow, Solomon the antique dealer wins. "With furniture, you can't be too emotional." Neither man comes out better for it. Solomon, however, in all his 89 years of wisdom, somehow creates a future out of their rubble.
Jarrott Productions version of this lesser known and performed work of Miller's is quite beautiful. This cast is comfortable and sharp, never pushing this chamber piece to The Edge of melodrama. It's so easy, even with great actors, to reduce a script like this to a lot of yelling, but it rarely happens here. In fact, the opposite is true. Director Fritz Ketchum has aimed his actors toward a certain kind of restraint that conveys the love, no matter how twisted the circumstances may be, that each of these characters have for each other. There are no shouting matches intended to dominate here, but a passion to be understood and heard. Scott Galbreath gives us a restrained, contemplative, gentle Victor, his performance is as perfectly straight forward and honest as Victor is himself. Amanda Cooley Davis gives us such a wonderful turn as Esther that I found myself imagining what her days looked like while Victor was away at work. Rick Smith conveys Walter with a certain earnestness that makes Victor's refusals of help seem foolish, and his Walter seems definitely out of place, much as he tries to fit in. He doesn't even possess the same dialect as the rest of the cast. As a character choice, however, this was a touch confusing. Dave Jarrott's Solomon is at once spry, bright eyed, sad and wise. His Solomon may not be past his own pain, but he's wisely embraced it.
The set is perfect considering such a tiny playing space and theatre, and surrounding the audience in stacked up furniture was a nice touch. As a stickler for blocking and how it informs character and pacing, I was impressed with Ketchum's choices. It was not only appropriate and well executed, but pretty, too.
In the thick of so much theatre that is contemporary, experimental, edgy or bright and youthful, it's strangely refreshing to see a mature cast showcased in a nuanced classic work. It's a beautifully executed piece of theatre that should be assigned viewing for any avid Austin theatre-goer.
Straight forward plays such as THE PRICE don't require much in the way of lighting and sound, but the gramaphone calls for special notice. Victor cranks it up shortly after the start of the play, and listens to an infections laugh track. In the end, Solomon cranks it up, too. In between the two, lives a struggle for righting the future based on an imperfect past. There are choices and sacrifices and discontent. Victor and Walter are still paying a price for theirs, but Solomon, he's paid the cost of his, and earned his wisdom.
directed by Fritz Ketchum
Produced by Jarrott Productions
Trinity Street Theatre
901 Trinity Street
Running Time: Two hours with one fifteen minute intermission
September 28th through October 22nd