There’s something noble in sticking with your family no matter what, but there’s also something noble in finally cutting ties with a toxic parent. The Price grinds that contradiction against itself, making its characters crumble before your teary eyes.
In the attic of a Manhattan brownstone in 1968, Victor Franz (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) surveys all the now-antiques left behind after his father’s death. Those few minutes of Ebrahimzadeh’s joyful tinkering are the first and last pure moments of the play, before everything gets tainted with vicious distrust in classic family drama style.
Victor is joined by his wife Esther (Pearl Sun). Ebrahimzadeh and Sun share a warm chemistry. Director Seema Sueko takes care to keep the mood light so early on in the show, making every rare outburst of conflict burn. The two make an amiable couple, dancing beautifully together on ice that’s been getting thinner for years and years now. When Esther is finally wound up tight enough by her anxieties over money and age, she lets loose a burst of desperation as quick as possible before Victor can charm her back into complacency.
Semi-retired used furniture salesman Gregory Solomon (Hal Linden) is even more charming than Victor, which works for him as he spends much of Act I warming Victor up before hitting him with a lowball price to purchase the whole estate. Cue Victor’s estranged brother Walter (Rafael Untalan) to bring on stage a lifetime of emotional baggage and a little more bargaining skill.
Miller and Sueko torture the audience masterfully. Whenever the tense silence between the brothers breaks, the audience is riveted, begging the brothers Franz to escape their years of pain. Until the elastic on their family history snaps them back into veiled resentment.
Until Solomon ungracefully butts in. It’s hard not to scream every time Linden lumbers onto the stage to offer a slightly sweeter deal and utterly ruin a chance of redemption. His wizened physicality and classic Old World/New Yorker dialect are part of his charm, until it sinks in what traumas are reopening at the sight of a frail old man begging for money in between breaks spent resting in the dead patriarch’s bed.
Dialect coach Zach Campion’s work shows in Solomon and Victor’s lengthy bargaining. Victor has a spot on New York cop voice to match Solomon, though it’s odd that his brother and wife don’t have any of the city in their voices.
closes November 12, 2017
Details and tickets
Victor Frans will only be played by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh from October 6 to November 5; Ricardo Frederick Evans takes over from November 7 to 12. Both men are too young for the role, a cop who made it to retirement years ago but is still hanging around, scared that he is too old to start a new career. The strength of Ebrahimzadeh’s acting lessens the distance, until Victor is overcome with emotions. Ebrahimzadeh’s weak knees and agape mouth read better from a man of Solomon’s age than such a young Victor.
While Victor beggars belief, the brownstone is flawless. Set and props designed by Wilson Chin and Alekx Shines get a lot of attention from the Franzs’ nostalgia and Solomon’s appraisal. Sueko, Chin, and Shines give the cast a hoard of beautiful, classic pieces that hold up to scrutiny and make the world of the play undeniable.
Despite its age, Miller’s work holds up well. Esther feels at times like a product of a 1960s man writing about woman and the characters ruminate on the horrors of the Great Depression, but strong performances and a deeply human drama reach across 49 years and make The Price a thrilling piece of art.
The Price. Written by Arthur Miller. Directed by Seema Sueko. Performed by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (October 6-November 5), Ricardo Frederick Evans (November 7-12), Hal Linden, Pearl Sun, and Rafael Untalan. Set design by Wilson Chin. Costume design Ivania Stack. Lighting design by Allen Lee Hughes. Sound design by Roc Lee. Wig design by Anne Nesmith. Dialect coaching by Zach Campion. Props by Alekx Shines. Stage managed by Trevor A. Riley. Produced by Arena Stage. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.