Arthur Miller Masterwork: “The Price” 

Gablestage Embarks on Its New Chapter With Arthur Miller’s “The Price” 

Forever on the shortlist of the greatest American playwrights, Arthur Miller had a gift for crafting dramas steeped in time and place, yet timeless in their exploration of the complexities of the human experience. 

In his major works – ranging from “All My Sons” in 1947 and his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Death of a Salesman” in 1949 to “The Crucible” in 1953, “A View from the Bridge” in 1955, and “The Price” in 1968 – Miller explored the dark side of the American Dream and the consequences of ignoring bedrock ethical principles. 

After a sudden COVID-19 closure and a 20-month production pause, GableStage has come back to life with its production of Miller’s “The Price.” The play was to have been the last one directed by GableStage’s long-time producing artistic director, Joseph Adler, who passed away after a long battle with cancer. Now, it’s the first directed by his successor, Bari Newport, who has already put her stamp on the company. 

Changes become apparent from the moment you walk up to GableStage’s space at the eastern end of the Biltmore Hotel. A staffer checks for vaccination status then issues a wristband before you proceed to an outdoor box office. Newport herself may be found outside, talking about the play, and taking questions, and there’s more outdoor, pre-show seating. The space inside is spruced-up but reassuringly familiar. After a welcoming speech from Newport, the art begins – and that too is familiar, engrossing, and delivered at the company’s customary high level. 

Set in 1968, “The Price” has four characters, but you could argue that Lyle Baskin’s set constitutes a fifth. Chockablock with the possessions of a once-wealthy family ruined by the Depression, the attic of a soon-to-be-demolished Manhattan brownstone symbolizes loss, betrayal, and poisonous family secrets. It had been home to Victor’s late father until the elder man’s passing 16 years earlier. 

“The Price” by the great American playwright, Arthur Miller, takes place in 1968, and has four characters set in a fading Manhatten brownstone (stage design by Lyle Baskin). The family gathering symbolizes loss, betrayal, and poisonous family secrets.

Victor Franz (Gregg Weiner), a New York police sergeant, is turning 50 and eligible to retire. He and his wife Esther (Patti Gardner) are meeting used-furniture dealer Gregory Solomon (Peter Haig) at the attic. Missing, at least initially, is Victor’s estranged brother, Walter (Michael McKenzie), a successful doctor and the legal co-owner of all that clutter. 

Though many contemporary plays run 90 minutes with no intermission, “The Price” is old-school: 21⁄2 hours (with intermission) of character exploration and carefully plotted revelations. In the first act, Miller makes room for humor; Solomon, on the cusp of turning 90, is a cagey old fellow with a lifetime of self-benefiting tactics at his disposal, including jokes, misdirection, delays, and faux outrage. 

But once Walter shows up and the second act gets rolling, “The Price” shifts into more serious territory as it becomes a reckoning between the brothers. Sacrifice, selflessness, and the sins of omission all come into play. And some of the twists are shocking, piercingly painful, and, for anyone questioning the wisdom of life choices, unnerving. 

The production is beautifully acted, with Weiner delivering a richly shaded performance as Victor; McKenzie’s Walter is the perfect portrait of a cocky doctor accustomed to power who ends up cracking to reveal the damaged man underneath. Gardner’s Esther, known to enjoy a cocktail or three, is a lovely woman raggedly on the edge. 

It isn’t difficult to speculate why Adler chose “The Price” as his final production. He knew his remaining days were limited, and a play about choices and regrets spoke to him, as it does to us. Newport, who will carry GableStage into its future, has made sure of that. 

The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave.

Wed: 2 & 7 pm; Thurs: 7 pm; Fri: 8 pm; Sat: 2 pm &
8 pm; Sun: 2 pm. Through Dec. 12. Tickets: $45-$80
(includes processing and COVID cleaning fee)

Safety: Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative
COVID-19 test required.

*By Christine Dolen,