BWW Reviews: Artists Rep Explores the Cost of Choice in Arthur Miller's THE PRICE
Put four fine actors on stage with the words of one of America's greatest playwrights, and something splendid is bound to happen. And that's exactly what is taking place in Artists Repertory Theatre's production of Arthur Miller's THE PRICE.
THE PRICE, which premiered in 1968, is not produced nearly as often as Miller's THE CRUCIBLE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, or ALL MY SONS. Which is too bad, because the play, as the Artists Rep production shows, is one of his best. (The year it debuted, it lost Best Play to Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.)
The story is a family drama centered on two brothers who have been estranged since their father's death 16 years prior, finally coming together to deal with the possessions he left behind. Following the financial crash of 1929, the once-well-off family's fortune had turned. One of the brothers, Victor Franz (played by Michael Elich), chose to stay home and take care of his bankrupt father, giving up his passion for science and instead taking a job (that he hated) as a police officer. Victor is now facing retirement, without financial security or any clear idea of what his new life might look like. The other brother, Walter Franz (Michael Mendelson) left and built a lucrative career as a doctor, visiting Victor and his father only rarely and contributing a mere $5 per month in support.
The play takes place in 1968, in the attic of the brownstone apartment building where Victor had lived with their father, and which is now scheduled to be demolished. Victor has engaged Gregory Solomon (Joseph Costa), a second-hand furniture dealer, to purchase what remains of their father's things. Needless to say, the money from the sale means much more to Victor than it does to Walter.
THE PRICE, though, is not about money. It's about the price we pay for our life, for each and every decision we make, whether or not we know it at the time. It's about the complex relationships that exist in families, and about how our version of reality can be so different from someone else's version, even when we're looking at the same thing. The play is intensely intimate, intensely personal. It's about my family and your family. I have a hard time imagining anyone seeing it and not identifying with the emotions laid bare on stage.
The cast is phenomenal. Michael Elich perfectly portrays Victor's struggle to reconcile different versions of events as well as his current situation with the life he might have had. In Esther (Victor's wife, played by Linda Alper), we see a woman who has spent decades supporting her husband, and resenting it, and who now wants a little something for herself. Michael Mendelson as Walter has the kind of calmness that can only come from having been to the bottom and back. And then there's Joseph Costa's Solomon, who provides some comic relief and reminds us all that the only way to get through this life is just to keep on living it.
This is a fabulous production of a fabulous play. I am probably going to see it again. I recommend you see it early in the run, just in case you want to experience it a second time as well.
THE PRICE runs through April 26 at Artists Repertory Theatre. For tickets, visit the www.artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.