The Price tells the story of two brothers who haven’t spoken in 16 years. The reason for their long separation is slowly revealed over the course of the play. Victor is a New York Cop, a job he has always hated. He has just reached retirement age at 50, but is not sure about his next step. His brother Walter is a successful doctor and owned a number of retirement homes. When their father’s house is about to be knocked down, Victor contacts his brother to let him know that he is selling its contents. This sets up a meeting between the two estranged siblings and forces them to discuss their shared history.
The play is set in the attic of their father’s house which is packed with all types of furniture. It is the contents of an old grand house, crammed into this small space, with chairs stacked on top of tables and hanging from the rafters. This space is pleasingly realised by Francis O’Connor, and along with the lighting of Sinéad McKenna creates an interesting space for the actors to perform.
The first act of the play is the meeting between Victor (Denis Conway) and the Jewish antiques dealer Solomon Lewis (J. Stadlen). Lewis is a wonderful creation and has a number of great lines. Stadlen delights in his part, and has the audience on tenterhooks waiting for his next barbed comment. His part is very much the comic relief and lightens the mood. The two brothers Victor (Conway) and Walter (McGovern) have an altogether different relationship, and their attempts at cordiality break down as the play progresses. Fiona Bell returns to the Gate stage after her recent performance in the Vortex, and plays Victor’s wife Esther. The standard of acting is very high, but it would be impossible not to mention Stadlen who steals many scenes.
This is not one of Miller’s most often performed plays, as it is seen as uneven and flawed in some respects. The first act is very different from the second, and the ending is quite indistinct. The backdrop of the depression in America is possibly the reason for this production, and the comparisons to modern day Ireland. Director Doug Hughes keeps the pace tight and manages to brush over many of the flaws. This is an impressive piece of theatre that rarely flags and has some fine performances at its core.
Duration: 210 mins including interval.
The Price by Arthur Miller runs at the Gate Theatre until Monday 30th of June.
Director Doug Hughes
Set Designer Francis O’Connor
Costume Designer Joan O’Clery
Lighting Designer Sinéad McKenna
Music and Sound Denis Clohessy
Esther Franz Fiona Bell
Victor Franz Denis Conway
Walter Franz Barry McGovern
Solomon Lewis J. Stadlen
Photo by Pat Redmond.