Total Rating: 
February 16, 2017
March 16, 2017
May 7, 2017
New York
New York
Roundabout Theater Company
Theater Type: 
American Airlines Theater
Theater Address: 
227 West 42nd Street
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 30 min
Arthur Miller
Terry Kinney

Families: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em. No one is a greater chronicler of this phenomenon than Arthur Miller. Conflict is drama, and oh boy, is The Price ever dramatic. It’s also very long and very talky. Fortunately, this Broadway production features superb acting and directing. The last half hour or so is extremely repetitious; what keeps it moving is the uncomfortable realization that this is how siblings do argue with each other. There’s always plenty of blame and guilt to go around, more than enough deflection, and on the stage, one surprise revelation after another.

The show opens on what appears to be a surrealistic open-air warehouse. There are water towers up close and in the background, and there are clouds in the distance. Furniture is hanging on hooks way up in the air, and more furniture is on the floor, some covered in sheets. A harp is prominently displayed.

Onto the scene walks Mark Ruffalo, who rather oddly doesn’t get his applause of recognition until he takes off his hat. His character, Victor Franz, is a policeman, complete with gun and billy club. He removes these accoutrements, and his coat, and begins to wander around the set. He winds up an old-time Victrola and plays a record of someone laughing — very big in the 20’s, apparently. Only an actor with Ruffalo’s magnetism could hold the interest of the audience while seeming to do so little. In fact, the only flaw in Ruffalo’s performance is that when he proclaims he looks in the mirror and sees that he’s losing his hair and his looks, nothing could be further from the truth.

Years ago, Victor quit college to take care of his father, who lost everything (but not the furniture) in the crash of ’29. Now the building is being demolished, and Victor wants to unload all the household junk. He’s waiting for a crafty old dealer, Gregory Solomon. Solomon turns out to be the hysterically funny Danny DeVito, who comes close to stealing the show, and certainly enlivens it. At one point, he even seemed to crack up Ruffalo. An old timey Yiddish accent and broad gestures complete the portrait of an alter cocker who maybe, just maybe, has one more big score in his life.

Victor is ready to settle, but his wife, Esther, back from running chores which may or may not have included some imbibing, feels that Victor, as always, is selling himself short. She wants money to do all the things they’ve missed out on because they were always too poor and too frightened. Jessica Hecht, slim and chic in a raspberry suit, strikes just the right note. Since much is made of her good looks, it must be added that her legs are shown to great advantage.

Surprise, surprise: into the emotional maelstrom enters Victor’s long-estranged brother, Walter. It is he who has completed his education and become a doctor of some note. Tony Shalhoub wears his classic cashmere coat and expensive looking suit with real style. This is a successful man, but can he be trusted? Walter has his own agenda, and makes suggestions which Victor finds unpalatable. Everyone in the family has issues and resentments, as does the furniture dealer. Fingers are pointed, secrets are unfolded, and no one comes away unscathed. The question is asked, and asked again: What do we owe our loved ones, and ultimately, ourselves? What do they owe us in return?

In the wrong hands, The Price could be unbearable. We in the audience are fortunate that this production is handled with the greatest of care and skill.

Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub, Jessica Hecht, Danny DeVito
Sets: Derek McLane; Costumes: Sarah J. Holden; Lighting: David Weiner
Michall Jeffers
Date Reviewed: 
March 2017