by DICK KEREKES
Players by the Sea opened a three week run of Arthur Miller’s The Price at 106 Sixth Street North in Jacksonville Beach. Reservations at 249-0289 or visit their website www.playersbythesea.org.
This is the Jacksonville premiere for this play which is not the best known of Miller, but is certain as powerful as his blockbusters. I have seen a number of Miller’s work locally including ” The Crucible”,(JU), “A View from the Bridge” (Theatre Jacksonville), “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan”(ABET),and “All of My Sons” (Theatre Jacksonville.)
The Price concerns two brothers, Victor (Roger Lowe) and Walter (Paul Rowe) who have not seen each other in 16 years. When their father lost all his money in the big crash in l929, Walter was working his way through medical school and sending home a paltry five dollars a month. Victor gave up his study of science, became a cop and supported his father the best he could. Walter, later on refused even a loan of five hundred dollars to Victor, which would have let him complete his studies.
The play opens as Victor comes the attic of building that is going to be torn down and is crammed full of family furniture and belongings accumulated over the years. An antique dealer is called to buy the whole lot. Victor has notified Walter of the sale and intends to give him half the proceeds. Esther, Victor’s wife (Holly Gutshall), is a practical person who wants some hard-headed understand with Walter and a good price on the attic contents. Solomon (Greg Leute) is an appraiser, who at 89 is ancient but still wily and full of bittersweet shrewdness.
What follows is a lively conversation between the at-odds brothers about who was right and who was wrong long ago when their father was alive. It is not so much that secrets are revealed, but that truths that were never brought out come to light, and we as an audience are suddenly in the middle. Facts about their lives, their growth and experience, seem to throw the decision of who was wrong and who was right in the lap of the audience.
The title The Price has more than one meaning. The obvious is what price the Solomon will pay for the items, and the price Victor and Walter have paid with their life decisions.
Director Zeina Salame, working a quartet of this area’s finest actors, has explored the very smallest nuances of this dramatic piece. Holly Gutshall, as the distressed housewife who is prone to drinking and complaining, says as much with her wonderful facial expressions and body language as she does with her words. Lowe and Rowe are picture perfect as Walter and Victor. Walter, the smooth talking successful surgeon dressed in expensive clothing and Victor the blue collar hard working policeman, who no longer has any ambitions.
Greg Leute is superb as Solomon, and is absolutely convincing as an 89 year old Jewish merchant who married at age 75, and now plans to unload all the furniture piece by piece. Leute even grew a fabulous beard and is fully prepared to do Fiddler on a Roof if anyone is interested. I expected Leute to ace this role and he has.
Arthur Miller has always been one of the more interesting playwrights. He seemed to be obsessed by two interconnecting themes: the family and guilt consciences. Always there are brothers and sisters, parents and children, husband and wives, wangling over excessive demands on, or real or imagined neglect of each other. His plays make you think, and look at your own life circumstances.
If you are a garage sale fan, this set is beautiful, just stacks of furniture, and personal effects that are ready for the bargaining. This stuff gives you something to look at before the show and at the intermission. Director Zeina Salame and Tech Director David Paul, helped accumulate this piled high heap of miscellaneous memories. The script called for a harp, but it was impossible to find someone who would part with such an instrument for 3 weeks, so Players volunteer, Rick Farmer built one from scratch that looks stupendous. Great Job Rick.
If intelligent scripts, fine acting and directing are your cup of tea, you will find it at Players by the Sea and this production of The Price.
by DICK KEREKES