They say that everything has a price. But when that price is the sum total of your life — all of your experiences, your memories, your belongings, your very essence — that price says everything about you. Should it be depressing, or a delight?
One of Arthur Miller’s lesser staged works, The Price, is now on at Arena Stage. This American classic is, at is base, a story about a family’s loss and dividing the estate; but of course the theme of a life’s price runs deeper in this truly personal play.
Miller’s scenes take place in the cluttered New York attic of the Franz family in 1968, and at Arena Stage, Seema Sueko’s direction has left the era and atmosphere exactly so.
After a short exposition, the audience meets Gregory Solomon, played by Emmy and Tony award winner Hal Linden. Linden’s character, an estate appraiser, provides The Price‘s necessary comic relief — though one wonders if it was ever truly Miller’s intention to provide any. Solomon is there just to name the price.
In the course of his appraisal, the two estranged Franz brothers reunite after 16 years. There is some animosity. There is some guilt. There is evaluation on both sides.
One forewent college and stayed to take care of his ailing Father, while the other shrugged off family obligations to become a successful surgeon.
They dance around the polars of compassion and self sacrifice vs. self interest. Each made a choice — and if you asked random audience members, you’d get different answers on just who made the right one.
Because in the end, the point to take away from this rediscovered classic is that it’s not just about the price of the furniture, but the price we pay for the decisions we make in life.
The Price plays at Arena Stage’s Kogod cradle through November 12th.
*Images credit Colin Hovde.