The Price Review - A Center Theater Group Production

Opening night of a new show is always exciting to attend.  I didn’t know much about “The Price,” by Arthur Miller, but Arthur Miller is a well known playwright, so it couldn’t be awful. Besides it was a performance from the Center Theater Group, and with those two things it was bound to be decent. As I sat there waiting for the show to begin, I pondered on what the actual theme of the play would be. The whole stage was set with two rows of heavy wooden furniture stacked on top of each other, and I wasn’t quite connecting the dots. The Mark Taper Forum website informed me that “Two estranged brothers meet in their deceased father’s apartment to dig through his belongings, finally unearthing the hidden motives for events that long ago fractured their relationship. An American classic, The Price asks the timeless question: how do we measure the value of our lives? In celebration of Arthur Miller’s centennial, Tony Award® winner Garry Hynes directs this provocative new production.” I was expecting boxes of things for them to go through but everything looked nice and neat and I hoped it was just an elaborate backdrop that would add to the flavor as the two brothers reconnected.  

Kate Burton and Sam Robards (background)

 

The play started out with just one brother coming up the steps to the empty room; reminiscing on the times spent there.  Soon a woman enters the scene and at first you aren’t sure if it is his sister, friend or wife.  It soons become evident that it is his wife and they are having a bit of trouble in the married life, but still seem to have feelings for one another.  The first few minutes are a bit awkward and dead, but then the clever writing of Arthur Miller pops out, and the audience begins to relax with bits of laughter. You soon learn that Esther (played by Kate Burton) is concerned about money and not having to scrape buy and wanting to enjoy life more, where as Victor (Sam Robards), doesn’t seem to have those concerns and is caught up in an entirely different thought.

Sam Robards and Kate Burton (background)

 

Alan Mandell

Just when you are about to get bored of the back and forth skirting around the edges of the husband and wife fight a new character comes into play, Gregory Solomon (Alan Mandell).  An elderly man who is there to appraise the furniture; he noticed the heavy air he had just stepped into, and says one of the classic lines of the night says in reply to Esther question if he wanted some water, “I don’t need water, I could use some blood.” When the audience and characters onstage, finally all registered what he had just said the air had lifted and everyone could breath just a bit easier.  As Gregory Solomon was surveying the pieces he was brought in  to possibly purchased, he kept the mood light.  The audience was thrilled with his tactics and at the same time intrigued by the way he was able to get more than just a good deal, but to try to help in the process.

R-L: Alan Mandell and Sam Robards

L-R: Sam Robards and John Bedford Lloyd

 

Just as the brother, Walter (John Bedford Lloyd) came into the scene the lights went down. As the intermission began the audience was chatting back and forth about what had just taken place.  One person even claimed “this was the best Arthur Miller show they had seen” Other called it a “decent production” I leaned towards the first comment, among the shows I have seen, read and played in this was one I would definitely be recommending.

L-R: Alan Mandell and Sam Robards

 

The second half of the show reminded us that like life everything was not meant to be all laughs and light heartedness and in the play some deeper messages that resonate with many people came to life. Some problems take more than one meeting to be resolved while others resolve themselves. Sometimes it is hard to accept the life you chose and it is often easier to blame others for your problems than it is to blame yourself.  A play that leaves you thinking about your own life, and how you can become better is a great play!  This play was well written, well directed, and well performed.  Take the time to see it and you won’t be disappointed.

 

L-R: John Bedford Lloyd and Alan Mandell

Tickets for “The Price” are available by calling (213) 628-2772 or visiting the Center Theatre Group online. Tickets range from $25 - $85 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012. The Price runs now through March 22 2015!

 

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