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Actors invoke just enough tension

Maurice Barnfather

In “The Price,” written in 1968 and set in post-World War II New

York, Arthur Miller returns to one of his favorite themes: our need

to accept responsibility for our own lives.

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This rarely performed masterpiece, intelligently revived by

Glendale’s A Noise Within, illustrates this when two brothers gather

to dispose of their long-dead father’s furniture.

Victor Franz, who sacrificed his education to look after their

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Depression-ruined father and wound up a humble cop, wants redress.

His brother, Walter, who escaped to become a successful surgeon,

craves absolution.

Watched by Victor’s wife, Esther, angry at being less affluent

than her neighbors and friends, and the shrewd furniture dealer

Gregory Solomon, the two brothers confront their irreconcilable hopes

and the illusory nature of their lives.

The play’s title, of course, refers not just to the sum offered

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for the furniture but also to the emotional price each brother has

paid. Victor, in tethering himself to his conniving father,

subscribed to an empty dream. Walter, by leaving, succumbed to the

dubious ethic that material success creates a protective wall against

unhappiness.

But the real joy of the play lies in the character of the wily,

life-loving 89-year-old Solomon, who contradicts Miller’s image as a

writer of graveyard solemnity. He is played to perfection by Len

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Lesser, who endows him with a friskiness that justifies his claim to

have been an acrobat and that suggests that he still gets pleasure

out of furniture dealing. Even Lesser’s interventions in the sibling

rows imply the character has the residual wisdom of a natural

Solomon.

Geoff Elliott, who co-directed the play with Julia Rodriguez

Elliott, is artful as Victor, an essentially decent man corroded by

vengeful anger. Robertson Dean is an exceptional Walter, who is

fuelled by success-worshiping neurosis, while Deborah Strang

perfectly captures Victor’s wife, Esther, with a passionate vehemence

that suggests she has paid a heavy price for her husband’s integrity.

“The more you can throw it away, the more it’s beautiful,” says

Solomon of our disposable culture.

But Miller’s play, rather like the Spanish Jacobean table that

occupies center stage, has a mahogany durability that resists the

passage of time.


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