A star-studded new revival of a lesser known Arthur Miller play opened on Broadway on Thursday night. Here's Roma Torre with her review of "The Price."
It's not quite Arthur Miller's best, but given the playwright's tremendous gifts, "The Price" is still a compelling drama and one that's, uncharacteristically for Miller, loaded with humor. The 1968 play, like much of Miller's work, explores the American Dream. And in this revival it's blessed, at least on paper, with a dream cast.
Mark Ruffalo plays Victor, a New York City police sergeant who's returned to his family's brownstone to sell the old furniture stored in the attic. He and his wife need the money from the sale, but it's clear they have problems. We discover that Victor is unfulfilled, having been forced to sacrifice his education to care for his father, who lost all his wealth during the Depression. Victor's estranged brother Walter, played by Tony Shalhoub, is a successful surgeon who shows up unexpectedly amid a cloud of resentment and guilt.
Each of the brothers, as it turns out, paid a steep price for the choices they made many years earlier. Victor can't forgive his brother for abandoning the family; Walter's guilt has him desperate to make amends.
The production, directed by Terry Kinney, is not entirely successful. It feels under-rehearsed and over-acted in spots, and structurally, the play is rather lopsided. Act One has the humor; Act Two, when Walter enters, is deadly serious.
Jessica Hecht nicely fleshes out the supportive wife, disappointed by her husband's failings. Tony Shalhoub is also quite effective, though the emotional intensity at the end seemed rather forced. And Mark Ruffalo gained sympathy in a very difficult role in which he seemed to struggle a bit, particularly with his working class accent.
Adding color to this dark family portrait is furniture dealer Gregory Solomon, played to the hilt by Danny DeVito. And if his Yiddish accent comes and goes, the laughs are constant. Solomon is quite the character, and true to his name, he's a fount of wisdom.
Miller, always interested in morality and the consequences of his characters' actions, once again plants them in a nebulous grey zone. It's a place most of us likely know all too well; and that's why "The Price,” even with its flaws, is well worth a visit.