Playwright: Arthur Miller
At: Shattered Globe Theatre at
The Victory Gardens, 2257 N. Lincoln
Contact: ( 773 ) 871-3000
Runs through: March 3
By Catey Sullivan
There's a seasoned wisdom and hard-earned maturity to Shattered Globe's production of Arthur Miller's The Price. This is not the theater of youthful, puppyish exuberance or comic-book colors. It is instead complex, multi-dimensional and true to the shattering core in its endless shades of everyday, devastating gray. The explosions here aren't clever; they're human.
Working with a quartet of actors ( Doug McDade, Linda Reiter, Don Blair and Maury Cooper ) capable of mining fathoms-deep nuance from tiny flickers of tone, grand outbursts of passion and the whole spectrum between, director Todd Schmidt etches an intricate portrait of people carrying the ballast of years.
These are characters that have accumulated the heft of heart that allows—that indeed, propels—imperiling emotional risks. At 45, at 50 and even at 89, they're facing demons that would have flattened them in lighter, callower years.
Miller stays in familiar territory with The Price, examining the themes of disheartened disillusionment he magnified to such exquisite clarity in Death of a Salesman. The very setting of The Price—an attic laden with heavy, ornate furniture—evokes a sense of obscured freight and elaborate accumulation. Cramming the stage with weighty, dusty objects, set designer Kevin Hagan creates an environment of secrets about to be uncovered as the dust cloths are ripped away.
Preparing to sell off all this furniture is Victor Franz ( McDade ) , a cop approaching retirement age. Once he dreamed of going into science, but when the stock market blew in 1929, Victor gave up his dreams and stayed on the beat in order to support his once-affluent father. In the sale of the furniture that once filled the Franz's brownstone, Victor's wife Esther ( Reiter ) sees a shot at something like redemption—or at least a chance to realize a small dream by taking a vacation.
Just as Victor reaches a deal with antiques dealer Solomon ( Cooper ) , his brother Walter shows up. The brothers' lives are a study in contrasts: Victor trudged through joyless decades to support his father while Walter pursued his dreams, going to medical school and establishing himself as a rich, famous surgeon.
You think you know where The Price is heading at this point—a showdown between the good son and the bad son is in the offing, yes? Not so.
As long-festering grudges, perceptions and misperceptions are exposed in the musty light in the attic, it becomes clear that Victor's not the hapless victim of filial self-sacrifice his situation seems to indicate, and nor is Walter the selfish monster who abandoned his family.
As for the nearly-90-year-old Solomon, he's not named for the wise Biblical ruler for nothing.