There’s an Arthur Miller renaissance going on in Los Angeles, with productions of “After the Fall,” “Death of a Salesman” and “All My Sons” currently enjoying successful runs at the Fountain, Interact and Actors Co-op, respectively. This Odyssey Theater Ensemble production elevates one of Miller’s lesser works to praiseworthy status, thanks to its outstanding ensemble under Anthony Caldarella’s insightful staging. The production also is noteworthy for Victoria Profitt’s awe-inspiring New York brownstone setting, its somber, overstuffed interior surrounding the ensemble with the ghosts of a long-gone age.
Set in 1968, “The Price” depicts a cathartic confrontation between soon-to-retire police sergeant Victor (Barry Primus) and successful surgeon Walter (Lyle Kessler), two middle-aged brothers who attempt to assuage decades of unresolved angst while selling their dead father’s furniture.
Often intervening from the sidelines are Walter’s long-suffering wife, Esther (Laurie O’Brien), and flamboyant octogenarian furniture appraiser Gregory Solomon (George Murdock). By play’s end, Miller has overstated his flimsy premise that Victor and Walter have lived their lives by choices they each made and each has paid a dear price because of those choices.
This doesn’t lessen the impact of the sibling warfare. Primus and Kessler are sadly endearing as the formerly loving brothers who allowed their failure of a father to drive a wedge of misunderstanding between them that has been festering for 28 years. Both project the ill-at-ease uncertainty of two adults who truly do not know each other any more. There is a tangible sense of fear and pain in their communication as they grope and struggle to connect the dots between past and present.
Odyssey Theater vet Laurie O’Brien (“Mary Barnes,” “The Greeks”) powerfully projects the anger and hurt of a woman who has had her own psyche damaged by her husband’s emotional dysfunction. She emphatically distills a lifetime of disappointment and dissatisfaction into her one final demand: “Victor, I want money.”
Murdock is captivating as the wizened and crafty Solomon, whose transcendent life experiences relegate the problems of Victor and Walter to mere childish pouting. He knows the price he offers for the furniture at the beginning will be the price taken at the end because the brothers do not have the collective power to do anything else.