Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven
Is it sacrilege to say that Connecticut’s greatest playwright has written a bad play? But it must be said. Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” now on Long Wharf’s mainstage, is simply not up to the best works of the master.
“The Price,” in fact, appears to be two separate plays, each with its own style, story, mood. The play switches from cabaret comedy to family tragedy, with only an intermission between switches. “The Price” takes place in the top floor of a soon-to-be-sold family home, where family furnishings have been tossed helter-skelter. Two estranged brothers are heir to the “collection of junk,” (as one refers to the legacy), and a used furniture dealer has been called in as potential buyer.
In the first half actor David Margulies (the Jewish furniture dealer) runs away with the show, turning Miller’s lines into a stand-up routine redolent of the Catskills comedians. With every sardonic, poignant, hilarious line, Margulies has the audience in the palm of his hand. There is never a moment’s tedium, as director Gordon Edelstein moves the show along. Miller has an unerring feel for this type of character, and provides Margulies with infallible material.
But after intermission a seasonal change takes place. The play now focuses on the two heirs--one brother a successful doctor, the other a poorly-paid policeman. The policeman, over the years, had taken on the family obligations, while the other, apparently, opted to ignore them. The two duke it out, as past memories of injustice take center stage in a long, boring, confusing family spat. With the entrapped policeman, one gets moments of “Death of a Salesman,” but such moments are lost in a sea of verbiage.
Whatever the play’s failings, Edelstein directs with force and vigor. Moreover, he has assembled a competent cast, in addition to Margulies—Marco Barricelli, Kate Forbes, and Jeff McCarthy. And for his memorable stage set, designer Eugene Lee deserves high praise. Covering the stage’s floor and hanging from the ceiling is a remarkable collection of sofas, chairs, mirrors, chandeliers, lampshades, bicycles, rugs, footstools, pillows—and even a harp. All are, appropriately, in a state of deterioration. (Did Edelstein’s prop shop raid every thrift store in the area?)
Certainly the play had possibilities, as raised by its title. To what price does Miller make reference—the price for difficult family relations, the price for wrong decisions early in life, the price for the sale of old furnishings? “The Price,” one must grant, has its thought-provoking moments.
-- -Irene Backalenick
November 1, 2007