BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?

BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?

THE PRICE by Arthur Miller premiered on Broadway in 1968 and was nominated for two Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Scenic Design. It is a timeless piece regarding the choices we make and the consequences we eventually face. It is about family dynamics, the price of furniture and the price of one's decisions, taking place in a soon to be demolished family house where two brothers, estranged for decades, meet together to dispose of their late parents' property. The resulting confrontation leads them to examine the events and qualities of their very different lives and the price each of them has had to pay to have the lives they now lead.

Brilliantly written so that anyone with a sibling will certainly understand the push me-pull you relationship dynamic, director Tony Torrisi has mined every nuance of the lives of Victor Franz (Matthew Rhodes) and his wife Esther (Terri Parks) who we meet as they take a quick inventory and discuss memories from his family's lives as they wait for appraiser Gregory Solomon (Jack Winnick in his finest role ever) to arrive and offer them a price for all the belongings stored away for the past 16 years. And since Victor and his brother Walter (Phil Bartloff) have not spoken to each other since their father's funeral, not being sure that his brother plans to keep anything for himself or will want half of the inheritance money, Victor soon accepts the first offer made by Solomon who relishes his great fortune at acquiring so many antiques and items of great re-sale value.

BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?Of course his wife and brother, who shows up just as the deal is being closed, disagree with the price offered and spend a good part of the play jockeying back and forth with each other as well as the dumbfounded appraiser on the real worth of the items being sold as well as how their lives turned out due to decisions made involving their seemingly cold-hearted father. As the action take place, we learn that Walter went on to become a very successful medical doctor by moving away and attending college to pursue his dream. Victor, on the other hand, felt obligated to stay behind and care for his father, putting aside his own dreams of attending college to study science. Instead, Victor became a beat cop, married Esther who very loudly reflects on how hard it was living with him on so little, thus feeling she and Victor should inherit the entire amount and leave Walter with nothing.

BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?As many past revelations are revealed while the characters talk about their lives, all four characters take a hard look at the price you get and the price you pay for the decisions you make in your life. Is it worth it to put your own dreams aside out of family obligation? Is it wrong to go off and pursue your own dream while the rest of your family suffers financially? But what if it turns out your father was a liar and his refusal to provide funds for your education came from his desire to keep you at home to care for him, when in fact he had enough money in the bank to take care of himself? It's a tough decision made by lots of families, no doubt causing long-term rifts as the BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?price you pay.

Thanks to Torrisi's insightful direction, the on-going dialogues never seem to drag and the action flows at a pace which keeps the audience interested in just what happens between these well-written characters. While all four actors are fully invested in presenting real people struggling with the decisions made during their lives, my only concern was the lack of any type of affection between Victor and his wife, and her shrewish nature made me wonder why they stayed together for so long other than out of duty. Parks presents Esther as a rather one-tone character who seems to only care deeply about the money her husband will inherit, never showing us why she loved him so much to live the type of life he could offer to her. It's another example of Miller examining whether living a life out of a sense of duty is worth the price it costs you.

BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?Wearing a new suit, which each of the men compliment her on, it seemed Esther would have been much happier being married to a financially successful man like Walter who could afford to provide a much easier life for her and their children. And the one time the two of them sit and have a personal conversation alone, it is very apparent that Esther is very interested in Walter's life and successes, while offering comfort to him for his personal struggles over the years they were not in touch. Would that she would support her husband the same way emotionally rather than finding fault in each of his decisions.BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?

Rhodes and Bartloff are a joy to watch as they get reacquainted after so long, both finding fault as well as new truths about the choices each has made. When they come to physical blows, it ends quickly and the two then move on with the task at hand. Rhodes presented Victor as a man who has accepted his lot in life and done the best he can, while Walter, though more financially well off, has suffered a breakdown and gone on to re-invent himself as a "new man." So much so, it seems hard to believe the brother Victor describes from his past could possibly be the caring man we meet during the play.

But it is Jack Winnick's quirky Jewish appraiser full of his own importance that steals the show. Winnick shared that he modeled the character on his own father, thus his inherent understanding of BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?Solomon and his goal of getting what he can for as little as possible by dazzling Victor with his self-proclaimed career brilliance, was thoroughly entertaining and often added in some much-needed laughter. But in the end, is life really just about the rat race with the only thing people strive for being money? No doubt that question will be asked for as long as people exist.

Kudos to co-producer Sherman Wayne for his brilliant set design, decorated to perfection with lots of furniture hanging on the walls, BWW Review: What is THE PRICE You Are Willing to Pay No Matter the Personal Cost to Your Own Life?a lovely harp which many would have kept rather than sell, beautiful formal ball gowns handing in a sturdy standing closet, as well as many more items than I could possible list here. Adding is a touch of time period realism is Susan Stangl's sound design which included a 1920's laughing party record.

Theatre Palisades opens their 2018 season with Arthur Miller's "THE PRICE" opening Friday, January 12 through Sunday, February 18 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Pierson Playhouse located at 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades 90272. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and students. Please contact the box office to make your reservations (310) 454-1970 or at www.theatrepalisades.org

Photo credit: Joy Daunis


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From This Author Shari Barrett