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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Solid Performances in
Arthur Miller's The Price

Also see Richard's reviews of River's End and The Haunting of Winchester

The Price
Ray Reinhardt, Michael Santo,
and Charles Dean

The Aurora Theatre Company opens its 14th season with Arthur Miller's last great critical and popular success The Price, with solid performances by four actors in this engrossing play. This play never had the stature of Miller's Death of a Salesman, but it still offers substantial fulfillment to today's audiences.

I first saw this play at the Morosco Theatre in New York during the summer of 1968 with an all star cast of Pat Hingle, Kate Reid, Arthur Kennedy and David Burns playing the showy role of the 89-year-old Jewish antique dealer Gregory Solomon. I saw the 1979 revival in New York with Joseph Buloff playing the role. Bob Dishy and Eli Wallach are among the great actors who have played this fascinating character. The play is seldom revived by community or regional theatre because it needs four very good actors who are masters of timing. Director Joy Carlin has found four such actors to play the roles - stylishly and sympathetically directing this scorching examination of sibling rivalry.

The Price involves the sale of the Franz brothers' deceased father's furniture. Victor (Charles Dean) is a New York policeman who has been given the task of selling all of the furniture since the house is being torn down do to be replaced by a redeveloped plan in New York. He invites elderly Jewish antique dealer Gregory Solomon (Ray Reinhardt), who has the gift of gab, to appraise the whole shebang. Victor is a kind of guy that does not want to argue over price, much to the consternation of his wife Esther (Judith Marx). The late father had lost all of his money in the stock market crash of 1929 and Victor had to give up his dream of being a noted scientist to take care of his destitute father. He instead became a policeman working mostly in the airport area. Walter (Michael Santo), however, had decided to pursue his own dreams and has become a successful, rich surgeon. The brothers have not talked for sixteen years since Walter refused to give Victor $500 to complete his scientific studies. They are now to meet to discuss the selling of the furniture and their past life. Arthur Miller's masterpiece is about the fierce domestic conflict fought between husband and wife, brother and brother. The resentment between Victor, who has nothing, and Walter, who has everything, is brilliantly portrayed by the two veteran actors.

Ray Reinhardt (a mainstay of the ACT ensemble from its very beginning and one of the best King Lears I ever saw) gives an unforgettable performance as Gregory Solomon. He has a ready array of Jewish "mots justes." He gives a wonderfully colorful performance without ever drifting into Russian-Jewish caricature, handling the role with panache and meticulousness. Charles Dean (well known Bay Area actor and will soon be in Irving Berlin's White Christmas) once again gives an outstanding performance. His tour de force of silent acting at the beginning of the play is brilliant, as Victor enters the attic of his deceased father and wanders around touching various objects.

Michael Santo (Tally's Folly at Pasadena Playhouse and Pentecost at the Old Globe plus many appearances in the Bay Area) is first rate as the rich brother Walter. Both Santo and Dean are well matched since they must maintain a moral balance. The confrontation scene in the second act has real theatrical impact. Judith Marx (Los Angeles actress but was a member of Berkeley Rep Ensemble for eleven years) does well with the underwritten role of the wife. It is a very convincing performance.

Joy Carlin has a dedicated directorial eye for even the smallest detail, and this comes out in the opening sequence with Charles Dean and his wife eyeing all of the furniture before the antique appraiser arrives. Action and dialogue flow smoothly; there are no dull spots in this exciting production. The director has used a very popular record of the time (called "The Laughing Record"), which just has people laughing, at the beginning and end of the play. Between these bursts of laughter are depths of anguish and bitterness.

Richard Olmsted has devised a striking set for this three-sided theatre. Stacks of old furniture are crammed and cluttered about the fourth wall. The furniture goes up to the rafters of the theatre in this very realistic set. An old 78 recording of Gallagher and Sheen being played on an old wind up phonograph is apropos to the story.

The Price plays through October 9th at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org.

Their next production will be the first new English translation of Marius in over 70 years. It opens on November 17th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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