The Price


Review by Willard Manus

To mark the centennial of Arthur Miller, Center Theatre Group has mounted a production of one of the illustrious playwright’s later works, THE PRICE. Directed by Ireland’s Garry Haynes (artistic director of Druid Theatre Company), the play stars Kate Burton, John Bedford Lloyd, Sam Robards and Alan Mandell. The latter gleefully takes on the role of the colorful, crafty furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon, giving him the accent and behavior of an old-time Yiddish vaudevillian. The result is a performance that is both stereotypical and hilarious–an uneasy mixture in this politically correct day and age.
THE PRICE, like so many of Miller’s plays, is about chickens coming home to roost. Or put another way, the fall-out from the failure of the American Dream.

Set in a NYC once-grand brownstone whose dusty main room is piled high with antique furniture, THE PRICE unfolds in 1960, soon after the death of the Franz family’s patriarch, a wealthy and proud businessman whose fortune was wiped out in the 1929 Wall Street crash. All that’s left of the estate is the long-shuttered house and left-over furniture, which the heirs want to sell to the aged, tottering Solomon, whose non-stop jokes and shticks mask the darkness at his core (the suicide of a beloved daughter).
The other three characters are also loaded down with emotional baggage: Esther (Burton), a brisk and ambitious woman, looks down on her husband Walter (Lloyd) because he settled for the safe, unfashionable life of a NYC policeman. Their squabbles are minor, though, compared to the conflict between Walter and his brother Victor (Robards), a successful and bombastic surgeon.
The brothers, who have not spoken to each other in sixteen years, meet now to try and settle their father’s estate. They go from bargaining with Solomon to digging deep into the reasons for their estrangement, reasons that go back into childhood and the crushing of their father’s spirit by capitalism’s Iron Heel.
THE PRICE’S universal themes are family and money. Miller, as always dramatizes them effectively, though it isn’t until Act Two that his play becomes truly alive and compelling (Act One being little more than an opportunity for Mandell to entertain us with his Borscht Belt-like routines.
Mandell’s fellow performers feed off his virtuosic performance and manage to keep you involved for the entire evening.

(Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-628-2772 or