Arthur Miller’s THE PRICE, which features an ongoing struggle of interfamily conflict, shares some similarities with his more familiar works. The story is simple yet poignant. Victor (Phil McCrossan) and Walter (John Reardon) are brothers. Their father, a once-successful businessman raking in millions, lost all his wealth virtually overnight in the stock market crash of 1929. Their mother died shortly thereafter, and their father couldn’t face the fear, risk and humiliation of starting over from the bottom, effectively leaving his welfare solely in his sons’ hands.
In order to support his father, Victor put off school and his dreams of working in science. He obtained a job as a police officer, earning a meager salary that barely sustained him, his father, and his loyal wife Esther (Faith Yesner). Walter chose a different route. He abandoned the family to pursue a career in medicine, ultimately becoming a highly successful doctor. Despite his prosperity, he only sent his father a meager five dollars a month and rejected Victor’s request for a loan to pay for school. Several years later, their father died, and the brothers fell out of contact.
That’s merely the framework. At the start of the play, it’s 1968 and sixteen more years have passed. The building where Victor had been storing his parents’ furniture is about to be condemned, so Victor retains an elderly appraiser (Dan Gudema) interested in buying the furniture outright. But the sale of old family possessions brings back mostly painful memories and serves to air dirty laundry. And now Walter has abruptly returned, yet his true reasons for doing so are clouded in mystery.
THE PRICE explores how two different decisions made decades prior can lead to drastically distinct outcomes, each carrying its own baggage. Director David Flagg’s praiseworthy production at The Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill hits all the right points, starting with his solid ensemble cast of four. McCrossan and Reardon are well-matched as the estranged brothers, and their tumultuous confrontation in Act II is the highlight of the show. Gudema provides a great counterbalance (and welcome comic relief) as the eccentric appraiser with a knack for beating around the bush, much to the aggravation of the other characters. Particularly impressive, however, is Yesner as Victor’s wife, who breathes life and strength into a character who easily could have been saddled to the background.
Also noteworthy is the excellent set design by Scott Killinger. The stage, jam-packed and stacked high with assorted antique furniture, perfectly embodies a cramped attic, while simultaneously allowing the actors sufficient space to move around. Similarly, Flagg’s varied blocking of the actors under such confined circumstances is both fluid and natural.
Arguably, THE PRICE is more relatable and appreciable than Miller’s other dramas. It doesn’t end with a suicide or martyrdom, it doesn’t run three hours, and it doesn’t leave you clinically depressed. Instead, it concludes realistically, and anyone who’s experienced a major falling out with a family member undoubtedly will feel something here. There’s a cost, financial or otherwise, for every choice we make, and one day that bill becomes due. Needless to say, this production is worth the price of admission.
by Arthur Miller
Directed by David Flagg
June 10-26, 2011
8130 Germantown Ave
Chestnut Hill, PA