by Deirdre Donovan
Miller’s popularity certainly isn’t waning on Broadway. Just last season A
View from the Bridge and The Crucible, both memorably directed by the
Belgian director Ivo van Hove, were hot tickets on the Great White Way. Now, The
Price returns to Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre under Terry
Kinney’s even-handed direction.
you need a quick refresher on the story, here it is. Set in an attic of a Manhattan brownstone that’s soon to be torn down, a police sergeant Victor returns to his
childhood home to sell what’s left of his parent’s estate. His wife Esther,
his estranged brother Walter, and the cunning antique dealer who’s appraising
the furniture, all arrive on the scene later, each insisting that their voice
be heard. Although the play begins as Victor’s solo reflection on his
childhood home, it ends as an emotional battleground between the two brothers
who took decidedly different paths in life: Victor abandoned his dream of
getting an education when his family went broke at the onset of the Great
Depression and stayed home to keep the family financially solvent. In contrast,
his brother Walter left the homestead and went on to become a successful
doctor. Sixteen years have now passed but two emphatic questions remain to
haunt the brothers: What personal price has each sibling paid for his chosen
life? And what does their future hold?
has lassoed a dream-team of actors for his Price. There’s Mark Ruffalo
playing the police sergeant Victor, whose natural-like acting becomes even more
transparent here. Ruffalo’s Victor becomes that ordinary Joe whose
self-sacrifice has slowly gnawed into his soul. Ruffalo never over-reaches
with his acting, but he nails his character’s qualities, his willy-nilly
indecisiveness and his smoldering anger for his brother Walter.
Shalhoub is well-cast as the urbane Walter. From the moment he arrives in his
expensive camel-colored overcoat, there is a sea-change in the play. Shalhoub’s
Walter was impressive in his turn in The Band’s Visit earlier this
season. But he seems born to play Walter, a man who’s gained respect in the
community and is influential in his chosen career of medicine.
Hecht, as Esther, is perfect as the wife who feels that life has passed her—and
her husband--by. One hears the quiet desperation in her voice a half hour in,
when she says to her husband Victor: “It’s that everything was always
temporary with us. It’s like we never were anything, we were always
about-to-be.” Hecht’s Esther exists in the pre-Gloria Steinhem era when women
were still pretty much an appendage of their spouses. That said, Hecht milks
her role splendidly. She balances her character’s nagging and selfish
qualities with a genuine sincerity. The only woman onstage, Hecht brings a soft
femininity and tasteful fashion sense (her chic pink suit is a knockout) to the
fore. Yes, her Esther has an Achilles’ heel (her obsession with money), but she
always remains true-blue to her man.
these actors are at the top of their game, Danny DeVito is the real stage-taker
here. DeVito’s Gregory is a hand-in-glove fit. DeVito’s comic gifts have never
been sharper as he impersonates the antique dealer who’s eager to seal the
deal. Although DeVito exercises his comedic muscles to the hilt, he also
brings dramatic contrast to the play. His Gregory, in fact, has a
bone-chilling story about his daughter who committed suicide long ago—a dark
event that still fills him with a creeping remorse. DeVito’s Gregory is
definitely a man of flesh-and-blood. And if he’s bent on getting a good price
for the estate’s goods, can one really blame him at almost 90 for wanting his
“last hurrah” as a businessman?
staging throughout is well-managed. Derek McLane’s set, complemented by David
Weiner’s half-lighting, is rightfully cluttered with shabby furniture and
knick-knacks. One can practically smell the old musty attic and sometimes see
a cloud of dust arise from a divan or settee that Victor uncovers for
inspection. Sarah J. Holden’s costumes hit the mark, from Esther’s
cherry-blossom colored suit . . . to Victor’s police uniform . . . to Walter’s
butter-smooth cashmere coat . . . to Gregory’s frumpy clothes.
once said that all his plays were autobiographical. Little wonder that The
Price is so penetrating in its portraits of family members. It’s the deep
humanity that Miller invests in his dramatis personae that ultimately is moving
and grabs you by the heartstrings.
the play would be better if it were trimmed down to 2 hours (it clocks in at
approximately two and a half hours), it’s hard to know just what could be
eliminated. Miller used the classic unities of time, place, and action in The
Price, which lends it an integrated feel even though it is overly long.
you are in the mood for a Miller play, this new iteration of The Price will
put you on the edge of your seat. Kinney doesn’t cut any corners here, and the
four-member cast go the dramatic distance—and then some.
the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.
tickets and more information, phone 212.719.1300 or visit online at
Time: 2 hours; 30 minutes with an intermission.