Misconceptions, manipulations, sibling rivalry and not wanting to let go of the past are all at the helm of Arthur Miller’s moralistic 1968 drama The Price, now playing at The American Airlines Theatre. This prolific play is just as relevant now as it was when Miller sought to add his stamp onto the playwriting community.
In The Price Victor (Mark Ruffalo) has called on the wily 89-year-old Gregory Solomon (Danny Devito), to sell his late father’s household. Victor, a fortyish N.Y.C. police sergeant life, has not gone the way he planned. He sacrificed his dreams and ambitions to care for his ailing father. Returning to his childhood home where he lived with his brother Walter (Tony Shalhoub) he becomes entrapped into memories and ghosts that still haunt him. His wife, Esther (Jessica Hecht) finds him listening to a laughing record, laughing in a sound that almost sounds like despair. Esther wants him to retire and live a good life. She has watched as her husband has sacrificed and now she wants more. She leaves him with Solomon telling him to get a good deal. Solomon offers a mere eleven hundred dollars, stating don’t get emotional over used furniture. Victor is determine to split it with his wealthy doctor brother, who arrives at the end of Act I.
Act 2 is when the show takes off. Walter escaped their manipulating callous father who lost their fortune, swallowing their mother and then Victor. Walter saw past the lies and knew that the father was not as broke as he claimed. Victor blames Walter for not helping financially and for getting away. Walter has lived with the guilt that he did not save his brother. Regret is a strong wall between the brothers and separates them despite the olive branch Walter keeps trying to offer. In truth it is too late for Victor who wallows in self-pity. In the meantime Gregory is dealing with memories of his own failure. In the end as the truth is callously revealed nobody has changed except that Gregory has gotten the furniture for a song and dance.
You expect Mark Ruffallo to any minute shout “Stella” as he does he best Marlon Brando imitation. DeVito breaks the tension with his savagely hilarious portrayal. Hecht, is perfectly needy and out of touch with reality. It is Shalhoub, who you cannot take your eyes off of. His vulnerability in admitting his failure and wanting to make this relationship right are at the heart and soul of this play.
Director Terry Kinney’s (Steppenwolf Theatre’s co-founder) doesn’t manage to bring this play forward. There are moments that the show seems overtly long and he doesn’t manage to bring the actors all into the same play.
Derek McLane’s set also left me bewildered with all the objects that looked like silo’s were in actuality water towers. Considering we were in a brown stone why were we seeing so many?
Stuff bind us together, pulls us apart and hangs over our heads haunting us. The Price reminds us to let go and remember it is people not things that are important.
The Price: American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St.