The Price

‘THE PRICE’: (left to right) Tony Shalhoub, Mark Ruffalo & Jessica Hecht. Photo: Joan Marcus

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THE PRICE
Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Terry Kinney
Through May 7, 2017
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
(212-719-1300), www.RoundaboutTheatre.org

 

By David NouNou

Death Of A Salesman, The Crucible and A View From the Bridge are Arthur Miller’s most enduring plays, and every few years, a director comes along and shines a new perspective on them; lately it’s been done by European directors that push the envelope to the point that they are hardly recognized as Miller plays. Thank goodness The Price is not one of them; it is so rarely done that when a good production is mounted, you welcome it with open arms. I was too young to appreciate the original 1968 version; the 2000 version was abysmal; and now finally a version has arrived at just the right time, with its values intact.

The Price centers around two brothers that have each taken a different path growing up. Victor Franz (Mark Ruffalo) stayed to take care of his bankrupt father after the death of his mother and gave up school and science to become a policeman. Walter Franz (Tony Shalhoub) decided to leave his father and pursue his schooling and became a very wealthy doctor. They have been estranged for 28 years without even a call. Now that their father is dead and the building they lived in is being demolished, all the furniture that was stored in the attic has to be sold, and the appraiser, Gregory Solomon (Danny DeVito), has come to buy it all. This brings us to the price for the furniture, the price that each brother has paid to be who they are, and the price Solomon has paid to live as long as he has. The fourth character is Esther Franz (Jessica Hecht), wife of Victor, who has always envied people with a better life than she’s had and after nearly 30 years of marriage, still wants a better life.

What makes The Price relevant today is that it’s a seesaw play, one’s allegiance shifts from brother to brother on a moment-to-moment basis. What two brothers haven’t shared in guilt and recrimination with moving on or staying behind? In 1968, in gentler times, the arguments were clearer cut. Today, with harsher and more cynical realities, the lines are blurred and each one presents his case but ultimately there are no winners, for what is done is done and you can’t change the past. Seen by this perspective, The Price is profoundly relevant today.

Like the best of wines, Tony Shalhoub just keeps getting better with age. He is a consummate actor with a command that rivets your whole attention to his performance. When he is onstage, the play is electric; but he doesn’t come on until the end of Act I. However, in Act I you have Danny DeVito; finally coming to Broadway in a role tailor made for him. Thank God for his arrival early on to lift the tedium that is known as the exposition or set up of the play. You can say he is the wise Jewish grandfather of his previous role of Louis De Palma from TV’s “Taxi.” What a joy to have him on stage supplying the lighter moments.

In the drab and thankless roles of Victor and Esther Franz, Mark Ruffalo and Jessica Hecht make a valiant attempt to bring life to their characters. Mr. Ruffalo was a last-minute replacement for John Turturro; his real shining moment is the confrontation scene with Mr. Shalhoub. In those tense moments, you can really feel the pent-up rage between these two brothers who can never reconcile with each other.

For theatergoers who enjoy depth and content in their shows, I suggest you rush to the American Airlines Theatre because this production is only around until May 7, 2017.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published March 22, 2017
Reviewed at press performance on March 21, 2017

The Price

‘THE PRICE’: Mark Ruffalo & Tony Shalhoub. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Price

‘THE PRICE’: Mark Ruffalo & Jessica Hecht. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Price

‘THE PRICE’: Mark Ruffalo & Danny DeVito. Photo: Joan Marcus

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