Despite its flaws, the Roundabout Theatre Companyís revival of Arthur Millerís The Price is a potent and penetrating family drama. Director Terry Kinney has trouble navigating tonal shifts, but the play reaches a powerful climax, as two middle-aged brothers finally air the rage and resentment that has been simmering for decades.
Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) and Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk) play siblings Victor and Walter Franz, estranged for 16 years and eventually brought together in 1968 to dispose of their parentsí antiquated furniture before the old home is torn down.
But we donít meet Walter, a successful surgeon, until the end of Act I. The bulk of that first hour consists of Victor and his wife, Esther (Jessica Hecht), discussing when heíll take his pension and leave the force, and Victor then trying to get an elderly appraiser, Gregory Solomon ó played with broadly comic elan by Danny DeVito, in his Broadway debut ó to tell him how much the furniture is worth and cart it off.
ďThe price of used furniture is nothing but a viewpoint,Ē Solomon tells the Vic, a former science student who dropped out of college after the 1929 stock market crash to care for his ruined father, and has been a beat cop since. But here varying viewpoints arenít only about money. Miller explores the different ways that the brothersí saw their parents, especially their father following his downfall and the death of their mother soon after.
Victor saw him as a broken, tragic figure, but to Walter, the older brother, he was conniving. When the pair finally face each other, Victor realizes that Walter, at least for the last few years, hasnít led the charmed life heíd imagined he did. Walter tries to persuade Victor that their father wasnít as broke as he claimed, and thereís also the matter of the furniture, which Walter claims is worth more than the appraiserís offer.
Playing Victor with a thick New York accent, Ruffalo summons up a tornado of feelings as his brother takes him deep into their past, pushes him to rethink what happened and offers a truce. But Shalhoubís Walter comes across as too obviously insincere, and part of the playís tension should come from wondering whether Walter actually wants to help his brother or just squelch his own guilt about the past.
Although heís offstage for much of the second act, the roly-poly DeVito makes the most of his featured role, eliciting laughs from the audience even on lines that arenít particularly funny (and, some might say, throwing the show off-balance). But if thatís the price of reviving a lesser-known drama on Broadway, itís worth it.
By Diane Snyder
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Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub, Jessica Hecht, Danny DeVito
Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 2/16/2017
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036