Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's reviews of Our Town and An Act of God
Linden, the Tony and Emmy-winning actor, is 86 now and still a master in control of the stage. He dominates the proceedings whenever he appears, as Gregory Solomon, an elderly Russian-Jewish furniture appraiser who lightens the family drama with homely bits of philosophy and his eccentricities.
Director Seema Sueko has staged this chamber drama in the smallest of the three Arena theaters, where the pieces of Wilson Chin's set loom upward, topped by a grimy skylight. While the other three actors give solid, engaging performances as their characters struggle and try to exorcise their pasts, Linden provides the leavening, the spirit, the grounding and the humor.
The playwright drew on his own family's experiences in this story of two estranged brothers, both trying to come to terms with the losses and deceptions of their lives. Victor Franz (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) and his older brother Walter (Rafael Untalan) were teenagers when their father lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash. Victor, the dutiful son, quit college, joined the police force, and looked after his sad, defeated father. Walter chose to go on with his life and became a prominent surgeon. They have not spoken since their father's death 16 years earlier.
Now, in 1968, the old brownstone where the family once lived is being torn down and it's finally time for the brothers to take care of unfinished business, literalheavy furniture piled to the ceilingas well as metaphorical. They're trying to move forward, but the most difficult step for both brothers is how to establish communication. Miller's play is primarily a conversation between two people who came from the same background but never perceived it the same way.
The fourth character is Victor's wife Esther (Pearl Sun), who has seen her own dreams evaporate over the years and thinks it's time for her and Victor to move forward. She's very forthright, but has little control over the situation.