After radical, dazzling director-driven revivals of Miller's "A View From the Bridge" and "The Crucible," not to mention the profoundly stripped-down rethinking of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," it feels almost novel - at least, quietly reassuring - to have a lesser-known Miller work presented with down-the-middle sensibilities and expert care.
THE PRICE Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Price on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Price including the New York Times and More...
The actors are everything you might hope for with such a starry cast, intelligent and moving and honest, with particular props due to DeVito (in his Broadway debut) and Shalhoub. Solomon is the play's most comic figure, and DeVito scores serious laughs -- just watch him work slapstick wonders with a hard-boiled egg which he never seems to stop chewing. But the diminutive actor also conveys extraordinary gravity and mystery. What could have been played as stereotype and broad shtick ends up being a fascinating study of a man whose entire life has been about negotiation and dissembling. You'll be debating the meaning of his final laugh during the car ride home.
"The Price" can easily come off as slow and hokey today, but director Terry Kinney (co-founder of Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company), achieves a fine balance between Ruffalo, Shalhoub and Hecht's raw, accusatory battling and DeVito's spirited, minutely-detailed character acting.
Sympathetically directed and ardently acted, there's much to enjoy in this Roundabout Theater Company revival, which opened Thursday night at the American Airlines Theater. Yet it shows "The Price" as a smaller, more stolid work than it wants to be - still just a little out of style.
DeVito, playing the kind of irreverent, hilarious, irritation-generating dynamo that he also does so brilliantly on film-steals the audience's attention, especially when it comes to consuming an egg, the shell of which he cracks with his cane. He then eats it with the gusto that Cookie Monster attacks his cookies. His character is 89, and in a long, colorful life has been three times married and somehow acquired a discharge from the British Navy. But he, too, is hiding a family tragedy, and DeVito's emotional register shifts perfectly at the moment of its revelation. Hecht skillfully does as much as she can do with very little, Miller's vision of her seems beached between acquisitive shrew and frustrated peacemaker, with little shading in between-it is Hecht's subtle coquettishness that adds an edge to her interactions with Walter. Shalhoub is also unexpected: he looks as smooth as any stage villain should yet his desire for money isn't simple greed, and he doesn't patronize his brother, despite having materially achieved so much more. He puts the price of his beautiful coat at "two gallstones"-operated on "a big textile guy" who keeps sending him things.
Has there ever been a better gift to scenery-chewing actors than The Price? This is, after all, a play so chock full of delectable scenery that half of it is hanging from the ceiling. No wonder Arthur Miller's 1968 breast-beater is irresistible to actors of a show-boating bent and the theatergoers who worship them. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but The Price is, at best, a master's second-tier work - Miller lite. Many of its qualities and all its flaws are thrown into relief in Terry Kinney's damask-heavy revival, which opened Thursday night at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout production starring DeVito, Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub and Jessica Hecht.
Miller wrote Solomon as a half-wise, half-comic figure. DeVito, who holds the audience in the palm of his hand, tends to favor the comic side, making an extended meal out of an egg-eating visual gag. But he also draws on down-to-earth Jewish wisdom to keep family hostilities from boiling over and spoiling the financial negotiations. "With used furniture you cannot be emotional," he wisely advises, although whenever he's called, it's always an emotional crisis. "It's either a divorce or somebody died."
Continuing Roundabout's long history with Miller's work, this is a very solid, sensitively directed production of a flawed but rewarding play. It's no Death of a Salesman, but it still has much to say about capitalism and its costs to the striving American family.
I can see why "The Price" isn't staged as frequently as the Miller classics. The second act spins into an exhausting cyclone of old slights and misunderstandings to justify the silences between siblings. Director Terry Kinney does his best to keep things reeled in, but some of the interaction between the brothers borders on tedious. "The Price" is best described as dyspeptic. If you're looking for a hero or a villain, it's an irresolvable conundrum-you can find evidence that it's any of the four. That said, in the hands of a quartet as skilled as this, what we're left remembering finally is not Miller's art, but something of a master class in great performing.
DeVito is offering a spectacularly funny performance in director (and Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder) Terry Kinney's resonant if not wholly satisfying Broadway revival of, to my mind, one of Miller's bleakest and most personal plays. Consider the trajectory of the most sympathetic character, a police officer named Victor Franz, as played in this Roundabout Theatre production by Mark Ruffalo, an actor who specializes in low-status characters with natural affinities for sadness and for whom snapping out of something is pretty much an impossibility.
Thanks to his 40 years of work in movies and on TV - and his uniquely gnome-like, non-leading-man qualities - Danny DeVito is a performer with probably close to 100 percent name recognition. Me and you and everyone we've ever met know DeVito, whether from Taxi or Twins or Batman Returnsor It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And yet the actor is strangely underappreciated for his extraordinary comic timing, humongous heart, and inimitable presence. His unforgettable performance in Arthur Miller's The Price is serious reminder that DeVito belongs in the pantheon of greats. His supporting role - and the 72-year-old's Broadway debut - completely steals the spotlight in this wobbly revival of one of Miller's (deservedly) lesser-known plays about American male remorse and angst.
Until Tony Shalhoub arrives on stage to usher in a very different second act, theatergoers at the Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre might get the impression that they're watching a big, broad comedy. So what if the play is Arthur Miller's "The Price," which opened Thursday? Until Shalhoub's entrance at the very end of act one, Danny DeVito has single-handedly turns "The Price" into a Jewish laugh riot with his expert turn as Mr. Solomon, a comfy, psychologically astute furniture dealer right out of the Neil Simon playbook. Mr. Solomon gets the best price (for himself) by talking about everything - his wives, his retirement, his health - everything except what price he's willing to pay for the two Franz brothers' furniture, left to them by their long-departed father.
Ruffalo is likable, honest and direct, more plebeian than the other Victors I have seen (although I did not see Pat Hingle, who had already left the original production before I got there). Shalhoub, the former TV actor who has demonstrated his stage-worthiness with searing performances in Golden Boy and Act One, is a marvel as the successful brother. Walter almost sheens with success, on the surface; but the actor from the first allows us to see the depths that work beneath. Shalhoub can express his character's psychology by simply buttoning and unbuttoning his suit jacket; by play's end, he is gnawing at his fingernails.
Victor (Mark Ruffalo), a working-class cop, blames his estranged brother, the well-heeled Walter (Tony Shalhoub), for abandoning him and their broken father during the Great Depression. When they meet to sell the old man's furniture, it's the first time they've seen each other since his death 16 years earlier. Harsh words are spoken; old wounds bleed afresh. Ruffalo and Jessica Hecht, as Victor's frustrated wife, do creditable work, but Shalhoub falters; although he is persuasive at first, when Walter floats on silky smarm, his emotional scenes have a tinny ring. The play winds up in the pocket of Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut as a charming old ganef of a furniture dealer. With so much character and history compressed into his small body, he is a good match for the play. After dominating the first act, DeVito mostly disappears for the second, and the revival's energy flags without him. Only when he's onstage does The Price seem right.
Terry Kinney guides an atmospheric, period-rich production. Acting is uneven. Ruffalo gives a lived-in, believable performance as the indecisive and unsatisfied cop. But it's a mystery why being a career cop was a fate worse than death. Hecht is persuasive as an acrid, long-suffering spouse who's unafraid to speak her mind. But Shalhoub's mannered performance jars and gums up the works. Judging by his deliberate cadence, he can't quite shake the character he recently played in the musical "The Band's Visit."
With contrived accents and mannered performances, Terry Kinney's production of Arthur Miller's The Price lacks genuine dramatic punch. The tension in this family drama does not accrete, with each performer working against each other in tone and approach.