With “The Price,” the Roundabout has come up with the most consistent and rewarding production of its first Broadway season, a well cast and thoughtfully staged revival of Arthur Miller’s stirring 1968 drama.
This is a play haunted, and driven, by ghosts–of a proud family patriarch ruined and then broken by the Great Depression, and of a suicidal daughter who has lately returned to her aged father’s dreams.
The first act is given over to a New York City policeman and his wife, who have come to sell the contents of his father’s long-abandoned attic apartment, and the ancient dealer they hope will gladden the cop’s impending retirement with a good price for the furnishings.
The second act is an inevitable showdown between the cop and his successful brother, who have been estranged for 16 years; now the price being negotiated is not monetary but emotional, as the brothers strip away one another’s illusions about the past that have led them to such very different fates.
“We invent ourselves, Vic,” the doctor says to his brother, “to wipe out what we know.”
As the cop who sacrificed a promising career in science to support a father who may not have needed it, Hector Elizondo starts off a bit stolid and martial. But he eases into the role, and he’s completely up to the big scene.
His wife, who has submerged too much of her anger and ambition in the bottle, is played with a raspy sureness by Debra Mooney. The doctor, who refused to succumb to the father’s manipulations, is played with an on-edge brittleness by Joe Spano.
The philosophizing dealer is essentially a comic role in a play that would otherwise sink in its own despair. But Gregory Solomon also has his touching moments, whether recounting the dreams that have recently been invaded by his long-dead daughter, or being sent into a brief reverie by a Gallagher & Shean routine captured on an old 78 r.p.m. recording.
The memory of Joseph Buloff’s unforgettable performance as Solomon in a 1979 revival remains undiminished. But Eli Wallach plays the character with an adroit mixture of impishness, congeniality and pathos.
But indeed that balance is felt throughout John Tillinger’s production and if the emotional lid seems to have been kept on the action, there’s enough going on beneath the surface to make the performances satisfying.
John Lee Beatty has designed one of his patented ultra-real settings, a musty apartment despite the skylight, and it is aptly lit by Dennis Parichy. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are also fine.