By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
Esteemed mid-century playwright Arthur Miller’s 1968 familial drama, “The Price,” opened the 2018 Theatre Palisades production season on Friday, Jan. 12, as scores of theater-hungry Palisadians filled Pierson Playhouse for an evening examination of regret and the ultimate cost of choice and consequences past.
Directed by Tony Torrisi, the story begins inside an old Manhattan brownstone where Victor Franz, a middle-aged policeman with a chip on his shoulder, has just flicked on the lights after years of quiet neglect.
The room, filled with relics of yesteryear, is lonely and unpretentious: There are armoires and antique writing desks strewn about. A motley of table lamps and suitcases are stacked neatly against faded walls and a worn Victorian sofa sits in the center of the apartment like a widow waiting for someone to revive her charm.
As Victor—played by Matthew Rhodes—begins to unveil each item from its dusty sheath, his wife, Ester (Terri Parks) arrives next, slightly tipsy and armed with contention.
A woman longing for wealth and social status, Ester and her husband soon settle into a seemingly routine argument about Victor’s upcoming retirement and her desire for a more fruitful life.
Hopeful that the sale of the room’s accoutrements will provide the couple with a cushy financial net, she reminds her husband to be firm with the antique buyer who should be arriving at any moment.
The air is still plagued with thick tension when Gregory Solomon—a doddery salesman played by Jack Winnick—arrives winded yet ready to drive a wily bargain.
Semi-retired and pushing 90, Solomon is charming, brusque and equipped with forceful wit.
As he dances around the room, diminishing each piece as “too big” or “too old” or just unsellable, he reminds Victor that “with used furniture you cannot be emotional,” before offering to buy the lot for $1,100.
The building, we come to learn, once belonged to Victor’s late father, a man who had been consumed by his own neurosis after the 1929 stock market crash, and is scheduled to be demolished soon.
Just as they begin to shake on the deal, the negotiation is interrupted by Victor’s estranged brother, Walter (Phil Bartolf), who enters the apartment after 16 years of absence.
Dressed in pressed trousers and a tailored coat, Walter, a successful surgeon, arrives like a ghost unacknowledged to the fact that he ever disappeared.
To Victor, his older brother is the child who ran away with a stolen dream: While Walter finished his medical credentials, Victor, a gifted student with a scientific mind, dropped out of college to support his troubled father, much at the expense of his own life.
As the brothers continue to rummage through their past, Ester soon realizes that living the dream can be as isolating as it is attractive, and both her husband and Walter have each paid a hefty price for their father’s sins.
With undeniable talent and vigor, each member of the production’s four-actor ensemble lays bare a strong serving of raw emotion, and offers believable authenticity to this poignant and timeless parable about letting go of the past.
Produced by Theatre Palisades veterans Martha Hunter and Sherman Wayne, “The Price” runs every Friday and Saturday evening, with a Sunday matinee, until Feb 18. For tickets, call the box office at 310-454-1970 or visit theatrepalisades.com.
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