By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Arthur Miller’s plays generally focus on individuals and our society. Therefore, during The Red Scare, it’s no wonder that his critical views came to the attention of senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in 1957, where he was found in contempt (and later excused) for failing to name the people he associated with. 7 Angels theatre is featuring a production of “The Price,” which was written in 1968, after “Death of a Salesman” (1949). This is another of Miller’s masterpieces and directed by Semina De Laurentis (one of the 7 Angel founders) it is a welcome change of pace for a theater that generally presents lighter fare.

Let’s face the facts. Despite the ideals as stated by our forefathers in their “Declaration of Independence” from the rigid aristocracy of England, everyone is not born equal.┬áSome folks are born into more advantaged situations while others have to struggle hard to survive. We are born with individual personality traits and abilities, and the “gods of chance” -- particularly the human ones who control the ups and downs of the economy, also play a part in the choices we make during our lifetimes. That being said, like all animals, we are born with the instinct to survive. We learn how to choose which direction to run to, where to hunt, what to eat and who to mate with (if at all) but in the end, do we really have a choice in the pursuit of happiness. What is its value?┬áNo matter what you believe in, one thing is certain -- the ultimate decision is not ours to make.

In “The Price” Miller points out that there is a value and hence a price that must be paid for some of the choices we make in life. But, who or what is responsible if the outcome is not as satisfying as we expected? Should we blame ourselves? Arthur Miller’s, “The Price,” explores these enigmas when two estranged brothers meet in order to sell their deceased parents’ furniture. Their values and the prices they paid for their paths in life are indeed mesmerizing.

Charlie Kevin gives a very human performance as the cop, Victor, who is about to retire with his wife, Ester (Denise Walker). Ester is practical and money conscious and wants to get the best price for the furniture that she can, while husband Victor is easier to deal with. Bruce Connelly plays the warm, diplomatic, 90-yr.-old furniture dealer. Like a wise, King Solomon, (Solomon happens to be his character’s name) he bides his time while offering bits of Miller’s philosophy -- which is delivered in a peculiar, Jewish/British accent. Jon Krupp effectively plays Victor’s brother, Walter. He’s a highly accomplished doctor who is not as successful with his own wife and children.

In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy reflects upon his recent job loss while observing the fact that his refrigerator was timed by the manufactures to break down just after the final payment. Miller’s “The Price” also contains metaphors that illustrate what certain things represent -- relationships, memories, and the accumulation of regrets.
Shopping is one of the metaphors used in “The Price.” Excessive shopping can be a symptom of an underlying need and is a form of temporary therapy. Shopping can develop into a vicious circle of regrets, repeated returns, and a complete waste of time and effort. That’s the price the individual pays while the system entices and profits.

To illustrate, Solomon notices that Ester is proud of a suit that she bought at a huge discount and that she enjoys the thrill of achieving a bargain. The dealer realizes that he can deal more easily with Victor, who is not as materialistic, so he encourages the wife to continue on her planned shopping spree during the negotiations. Solomon philosophizes aloud that the best remedy for stressed people is to go shopping. It logically follows that if all the stressed people went shopping at once, the stores would be full of crazy shoppers. Considering what’s going on in our shopping malls today, Miller had a point.

Ester, an untrusting realist, doesn’t buy Solomon’s ploy. She sticks around and during the confrontation between the brothers and surprisingly, she changes her attitude.

Since the beginning of history, greed and envy can be found among siblings and even between parents and their own children. What is the price we pay for the choices we make during our lives? And, what is the value of all the aggravation and regrets we accumulate and carry with us? Be sure to see this marvelous production at Seven Angles.

Plays thru Dec. Tickets: 203-757-4676
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” -- November/December 2013

Posted on 11.27.2013

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