Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Steps are heard in the distance, increasing in volume till a door creeks open, lighting up a dusty attic room and a bitter family history. Arthur Miller’s The Price is one of the late, great American playwright’s lesser known works, but deals with his usual concerns of success, failure and the fractured American Dream.
Opening the attic door is Victor Franz, a middle-aged cop come to finally sell off his father’s furniture sixteen years after his death, and only now because the building is being torn down. His wife Esther joins him on the simple set of faded grandeur amidst the compact black box of the Unity. She implores him to get the best price for the furniture from the expected dealer, for the flat’s contents are almost what Victor’s life has amounted too. He sacrificed his education to care for his father, a businessman bust in the depression, in this loft while his brother Walter abandoned his responsibility to become a doctor, leaving the two siblings estranged. But as the other heir he too must be involved in the sale. Into this tension steps wise-cracking but frail furniture dealer Gregory Soloman, played in fine tragi-comic style by the play’s director Ray Sutton (Steeping in due to the illness of Gordon Craig) who, always dealing with the breaking up of houses and families has seen it all before.
Like all of Miller’s work this is a play based on dialogue, as through the actions of the characters he examines the changing world of America in the late 60s and the nature of responsibility, sacrifice and love within families.
Roy Carruthers as Victor and Angela Mounsey as Esther give subtle performances as the tense couple with Paul Green well cast as the successful but deeply troubled Walter. Being so word heavy the play takes its time to engage your emotions but by the second-half, when the finality of the sale forces all the characters to face the price they have paid for the lives that they have lead, it is nothing short of gripping.
By Kenn Taylor