In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price. Here’s an excerpt.
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“The Price,” the least frequently revived of Arthur Miller’s major plays, has returned to Broadway after a 17-year absence, this time in a Roundabout Theatre Company production starring a Broadway debutant by the name of Danny DeVito. That’s news right there. Moreover, “The Price” is Miller’s best play—the only one, in my opinion, that is totally successful as a work of theatrical art—and Jessica Hecht, Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub, Mr. DeVito’s co-stars, are actors of high repute. But big-name productions aren’t always all that they ought to be, especially when they feature movie stars with limited stage experience. While Mr. DeVito got his start off Broadway, it’s been upward of 40 years since he was last seen on a New York stage, and the only play in which he’s acted in recent memory was a 2012 West End revival of Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys.” On top of that, Mr. DeVito, a New Jersey-born Italian-American, has been cast as Gregory Solomon, an 89-year-old used-furniture dealer with a Minsk-Kapinsk Russian-Yiddish accent. He’s 72, so it isn’t that much of a stretch for him to play someone who’s a decade and a half older, but otherwise, as Solomon himself might say, typecast he’s not.
So how’s he doing? We’ll get to that. For now, let’s talk about the play. First performed in 1968, “The Price” is the story of Victor and Walter Franz (Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Shalhoub), two brothers who haven’t spoken to one another for 16 years. Victor is an angry, frustrated beat cop, Walter a surgeon in a camel’s-hair coat, and Esther (Ms. Hecht), Victor’s status-conscious wife, hates the fact that he isn’t as successful as Walter (though she loves him anyway). The setting is the attic of the Franz family home, which is crammed tight with ancient furniture that Victor and Walter want to sell off….
For reasons of his own, Mr. Miller claimed in 1999 that “The Price” was all about Vietnam. Maybe so, but it’s also—and mainly—a resounding parable of the power of pride to gnaw away at the ties that ought to bind a family….
The highly charged naturalism of Mr. Ruffalo’s acting is terrifically impressive—he’s going to be one of the great Willy Lomans once he gets a little more age on him—and Mr. Shalhoub, whose post-“Monk” stage performances have all been noteworthy, leaves nothing to be desired….
On the debit side, Mr. DeVito is effective enough in an obvious way, but he’s using Solomon as a star turn, wearing him like an ill-fitting suit instead of creating him from the inside out….
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Read the whole thing here.
The cast and director of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of The Price talk about the play: