"The Price" by Arthur Miller, directed Beth Duce October 19-22, 2022
Once again we owe a huge thanks to all those who supported this show, whether our loyal patrons or the many hard-working members who really put in so much time to make sure it all happened. Particular thanks must go to our director, Beth Duce, who as ever really "went the extra mile" to research and pull together this thought-provoking piece of theatre and see to it that we could do such justice to Miller's extraordinary writing. As usual, pictures and comments follow to give a feel of a really memorable production.
The Price centres around two estranged brothers, Victor and Walter Franz who have not seen each other since their father’s death 16 years earlier. Father lost his fortune in the stock-market crash of 1929 and unfortunately their mother died shortly after. The family lived in Manhattan in a large brownstone, and after the crash Victor’s uncles buy the house, renting the rooms and allowing their brother to live on the top floor where ten rooms of furniture from his opulent past are crammed! Unable to recover from losing his successful business and livelihood, with his youngest son Victor’s support, he lived out his days in the chaos of the dark shabby attic.
The entire play is set in this attic. The old brownstone building is about to be demolished which has forced Victor to face the situation after 16 years of inertia. He arranges an appointment with a local antiques dealer in the hope of a quick sale of the contents, and then intends to split the proceeds with his brother. He’s not at all happy having being left with this chore and has been trying to contact Walter by telephone, but he’s always unavailable and hasn’t returned any of his calls.
The play opens with Victor re-acquainting himself with some of his long-forgotten personal belongings and sharing memories of his life in the house & attic with his wife Esther. Enter the eccentric Solomon, an elderly used-furniture dealer who has been plucked from an out-of-date telephone directory by Victor to give him a good price for the attic-full of old furniture. With his wisdom and hilarious story-telling he tries to bring the two brothers together.
In The Price, Miller returns to themes of guilt, responsibility and moral debt. He presents the audience with four very real and vividly drawn people, and he gives his characters the right and necessity to own their own life. For more on Miller himself, and the echoes of his life in this play, please click on the file link below.
Review of "The Price"
Our grateful thanks to Ann Lightman and Donna Shoesmith Evans for this review of our production:
It was a brave choice for the start of the season, given that spring 1968 in a Jewish family in Manhattan, New York is quite a way from most peoples’ experience. But good theatre transcends such barriers and this was no exception, touching on themes which transcend time and space and are relevant to us today.
The staging was terrific – the lights went up on a dilapidated room, at the top of a large house, crammed with period furniture and ornamentation on a busy New York street – the traffic sounds filtering through. In daylight the room would be lit to some extent by the skylight, but it was evening and dark as the sound of feet came up the uncarpeted stairwell and a figure, with a torchlight, entered the room and switched on the electric light. A dramatic start despite little action, which set the scene for the whole play.
The policeman (Rob Colbeck) moved around the room, sighing and touching items of furniture until joined by his wife (Dianne Newby). It became clear why; it had been the policeman’s home and he had arranged for a furniture dealer to meet him with a view to selling the furniture. The dialogue between the husband and wife revealed much about their relationship, personalities and priorities. The husband’s indecisiveness – it was fourteen years since his father’s death and it was not until the apartment was about to be demolished that his personal effects were being dealt with. The wife exhibited little faith in her husband’s abilities. She appeared depressed. Missing their son away at University? Fed up of those around her paying more attention to her suit than her? The tension / anticipation mounted. Shortly they were joined by the furniture dealer (Mike Andrews) – who I must say reminded me of Jackie Mason. He was in his eighties and had given up the business, but he couldn’t let go. He wanted to chat, whilst the policeman just wanted “the Price”. This gave rise to a little comedic light relief, though the bleakness of the situation was not masked.
After the interval the greatly resented older brother, who had pursued a very successful and lucrative medical career, dropped by (David Lancaster) ostensibly to be reunited with his younger brother who had given up his career to look after their father who was bankrupted in the 1929 Wall Street Crash. During this half, facts, or interpretations of them, came thick and fast – the air full of resentment and jealousy. It was a little relentless!
The question of the reality of ‘The American Dream’ was explored – were you really able to make your own fortune and live successfully? There is “a price” to pay for actions. Society and family clearly play their part – but are actions (or their absence) largely dictated by ones genes / personality and circumstances? One message I drew was not to rely on others – you are responsible for yourself. Money was another theme – or maybe the lack of it. This thought-provoking play had enough packed within it, that everyone should have found some message relevant to themselves within it. When the family finally walked out of that room, had they left the past behind? I doubt it!
Finally I must credit the four actors – three of which were on stage virtually the whole time (Rob, Mike & Dianne) for having such huge scripts to learn and for delivering them in a New York Jewish accent so believably that one just accepted the characters. Well done. As a friend said to me as we exited, “Aren’t we lucky to have access to such good theatre on our doorstep for just £10.00?” I look forward to a slightly calmer experience at “Office Suite” by Alan Bennett on 18th – 21st January 2023.
Team Ann & Donna