2019 is certainly the year for Arthur Miller revivals. The Crucible is currently showing at the Yard Theatre. At the Old Vic The American Clock ended a run last month and All My Sons opens shortly. A stellar cast including Sharon D Clarke, Arinze Kene and Wendell Pierce will star in a return of Death of Salesman at the Young Vic next month. David Suchet’s richly comic performance in lesser-known 1968 play The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre is a welcome addition to this heady Miller-mix.
The price of the title ostensibly refers to a sales negotiation for the old furniture stored in the family attic of a Manhattan brownstone building due for demolition. It is 1968. New York. Estranged brothers Victor and Walter Franz haven’t seen each other for sixteen years but their shared pasts inhabit and consume them in the present.
As in his better-known works, the pleasures and perils of the American Dream loom large over this family-centred play. The metaphorical price of the life decisions we all make is what the play really excavates and in this, Jonathan Church’s production successfully mines the depths of Miller’s writing.
Memories and history drive the narrative and the past literally weighs down on the action in Simon Higlett’s claustrophobic set design, a wonderfully non-naturalistic towering tangle of antique furniture, which seems to imprison the characters in a past they struggle to free themselves from.
As wily 89-year-old Jewish furniture dealer Gregory Solomon, David Suchet steals the show in a masterful comic performance. A truly great stage actor, his toothy grin and obsequious smile perfectly capture the spirited ‘old soul’ of a man painfully aware of the price he has paid for pursuing a dream.
Understudying Brendan Coyle, Sion Lloyd filled the shoes of the troubled Victor Franz, a New York cop nearing retirement, admirably. As revelations from the past build and force both brothers to confront each other and themselves, the chemistry between Victor and Walter (a steely and angst-ridden Adrian Lukis) intensifies. There is also excellent work from Sarah Stewart as Victor’s frustrated and borderline alcoholic wife Esther.
The Price may lack some of the power and impact of Miller’s earlier successes, but this thematically rich play deserves to be more widely known.
The Price is running at the Wyndham’s Theatre until 27 April 2019.