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The Price of Brotherhood: Arthur Miller's 'The Price' at the Mark Taper

Kelsey M. Tidball |
February 25, 2015 | 4:57 p.m. PST


Kate Burton (background) and Sam Robards in Arthu Miller's "The Price" (Photo by Craig Schwartz)
Kate Burton (background) and Sam Robards in Arthu Miller's "The Price" (Photo by Craig Schwartz)
“Either this takes place in an attic or someone is quite the packrat” a bewildered audience member exclaims to her husband upon glimpsing the cluttered stage. Every inch is burdened with piles of carefully-stacked antique furniture, amassed in orderly disarray. It is as if the piles of bureaus, dining room tables, desk lamps, and chairs are a delicate puzzle; if anyone so much as dared to remove one piece, they would all subsequently come tumbling down.

Such is the relationship between two estranged brothers, gathered to discuss the fate of their late father’s only remaining belongings in Arthur Miller’s "The Price," which opened this past weekend at The Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles. "The Price," directed by Tony Award-winner Garry Hynes, explores the complex, resentment-driven family dynamics of two middle-aged men, seeking redemption for their past actions among the backdrop of 1960s New York.

Hynes production of "The Price" closely follows Miller’s original script, presenting family drama for what it is—family drama. In true Arthur Miller fashion, the play opens with a slice of organic life, as the younger of the two brothers, police sergeant Victor Franz (Sam Robards), rifles through his father’s belongings, unearthing childhood trinkets and an old 1920s laugh track. As Victor reminisces about his father’s life and his own misfortunes, his wife Esther (Kate Burton), mounts the stairs to the attic, anxiously advising Victor how to make the best deal with the appraiser. She laments about their money woes, stating “We talk about it, we worry about it, but we can’t seem to want it.” Esther continues to chide Victor for his cautiousness, suggesting that he quit the force, take his pension, and go back to school to begin a new career.

The couple’s argument is interrupted by the arrival of the furniture dealer, the wily, ninety-nine-year-old Gregory Solomon (Alan Mandell). As Solomon begins his appraisal, Esther leaves the attic, cautioning Victor to be wary of letting the old man swindle him out of a good deal. The two men are left alone to make the deal, and while Victor coaxes Solomon into naming his price, Solomon skirts the topic with tales of his deceased daughter, current poor health, and past victories and grievances, saying “Nothing ever stopped me. Only life.” Victor agrees that “So many things that seem so important turn out to be ridiculous,” and his allegiance to this statement is tested when his elder brother, Walter Franz (John Bedford Lloyd), a previously-successful surgeon, shows up unexpectedly, prepared to settle old scores.

SEE ALSO: Penises, Gunshots, And Madness Galore: What The Butler Saw At The Mark Taper

The production does not cease to enlighten and entertain, presenting a stellar cast of well-seasoned, award-winning actors. With brilliant direction by Garry Hynes, iconic set design by Matt Saunders, costume design by Terese Wadden, and lighting and sound by James F. Ingalls and Cricket S, Myers, the show is finely-tuned and on-point from beginning to end. Alan Mandell delights with brilliantly-delivered, charming one-liners. John Bedford Lloyd commands the stage with his haughty, charismatic disposition. Sam Robards grounds the production with his amiable, relatable portrayal of a middle-aged man, carrying the weight and paying the price for his past actions, and Kate Burton expertly connotes a zany, loving, disappointed wife, desperately seeking fulfillment and happiness.

All in all, The Center Theatre Group’s production of "The Price" is a must-see. The cast and crew have done Arthur Miller proud, going against the grain and beautifully producing one of his lesser-known works. "The Price" leaves audiences considering the price paid for their own lives, their decisions, and their relationships, filling them with the drive to start fresh and begin again, no matter the cost.

The Price is playing at The Mark Taper Forum (135 North Grand Ave., Los Angeles) through March 22nd. Tickets are $25-$85. For more information visit CenterTheatreGroup.org

Contact Contributor Kelsey M. Tidball here

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