Arthur Miller may have done his best stuff two decades earlier, but when “The Price” came out on Broadway in February of 1968, New York Times critic Clive Barnes was impressed.
“The Price,” wrote Barnes, “is one of the most engrossing and entertaining plays that Miller has ever written.” Bruce Browne, who is directing the Curtain Call production of Miller’s work opening Friday, likes that assessment.
“It’s written during a different time period and the speeches, the individual monologues, tend to run a bit longer,” said Browne, who recently moved to the Capital Region after two years of teaching theater at the University of Wisconsin and two more years at the Community College of Qatar.
“But the play is quite compelling,” Browne said. “It’s certainly not as well known as his other plays, but there’s a lot of depth to the issues the characters are dealing with, and the idea of the brothers trying to reconcile and asking themselves, ‘What are the prices we pay for the decisions we make in our lives?’ is pretty current and relevant for today.”
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., Latham
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through May 4; performances 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $23
MORE INFO: 877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com
Miller, who was born in 1915 and died in 2005, earned a Best Author Tony for “All My Sons” in 1947. In 1949, “Death of a Salesman” earned him another Best Author Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and in 1953 “The Crucible” won the Tony for Best Play. When “The Price” was first produced on Broadway it drew some favorable reviews and two Tony nominations, including one for Best Play. The Tony in that category, however, went to Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”
Other plays’ echoes
“The more you look into Miller, the more you see a reflection of his earlier plays in ‘The Price,’” said Browne, who is teaching world theater history as an adjunct professor at Siena College. “The two brothers are similar to Biff and Happy in ‘Death of a Salesman,’ and there are certainly connections to some of his other plays. But you can come to this play, not having seen any of the others, and find it quite captivating.”
Browne and Curtain Call founder and artistic producer Carol Max have certainly put together a top-notch cast for “The Price.” Gary Maggio plays Victor, a policeman approaching his 50th birthday; Katherine is Esther, his wife; Howard Schaffer is his brother, Walter; and Jack Fallon is Solomon, a Russian-Jewish antique dealer.
“We have a great cast, and I think this is a fabulous play,” said Max. “I have never seen a production, but when I read the script I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It’s about families and the secrets those families keep. I think everyone can relate to that. It’s not his most famous play, and it’s not the one they teach in schools, but I think it’s an excellent play and right up there with his more well-known works.”
Maggio didn’t have to think twice about trying out for the show.
“I remember thinking during the audition, ‘My God, anyone of those roles would be fun to play,’” said Maggio. “I’ve seen ‘Death of a Salesman’ and a few of his other plays, so I know that Miller writes great parts for actors. I’m sort of a naturalistic actor, and there are certain things that you can feel are just right. You know you can say those lines with conviction. That’s the kind of stuff Miller writes.”
Maggio, who remembers auditioning for a staged reading of “The Price” around five years ago, was happy to have another opportunity to win the role.
“I ended up getting something at Albany Civic so I couldn’t do the staged reading,” he said. “But I remember thinking to myself, ‘If this play comes up again I would jump at it.’ It’s about families and their stories, and Miller gives you plenty of rich memories. It’s really the kind of stuff you feel like you can work with.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.