“The Price” by Arthur Miller at ACT Theatre

“The Price” is a less than perfect play, but it’s by Arthur Miller, and less-than-perfect Miller is better than the vast majority of other plays written in the last 50 years. So the opportunity to see a good production of any of his works is something to relish.

Here Miller is dissecting the illusions around which we build our lives. Be prepared for overlong monologues (as well as overlong play), relatively little action, and a work that’s almost as musty as the attic in which it takes place. Yet you can also expect emotional dynamism as it explores imperfect family relations, morality, and the illusions that destroy us.

THE PRICE (c) Chris Bennion - Pointing back - Charles Leggett and Peter Silbert and Peter Lohnes

Charles Leggett and Peter Silbert and Peter Lohnes
Photo by Chris Bennion

Set in a long-ignored attic filled with the material goods of their deceased parents, two brothers meet after 16 years and replay the angst, disappointments, misunderstandings, and false assumptions that have ruled their adult lives. They came of age during the Great Depression when their father lost everything. One son, the one with more promise, gave up his dreams, became a policeman, supported his depressed father, and scrimped to get by from then on. The other son continued school, became a surgeon, and lives very well.

Charles Leggett as Victor, the policeman, plays the role as an emotionally deadened survivor existing with his disappointments. Anne Allgood as his wife wants more. Her stoic acceptance of doing without throughout her married life is used up. She’s taut with her need for Victor to buck up, start a new career, and begin the new life with the money all the old furniture in the attic will bring. Peter Lohnes as the brother enters the stage broadcasting his success in manner, dress, and vocabulary. Before the end he’s a compassionate truth-teller, a transition that seemed a bit at odds with his earlier incarnation, but was obviously Director Victor Pappas’s choice.

The comic relief, and the voice of wisdom in this hotbed of resentments is Peter Silbert as Gregory Solomon, the old Jewish appraiser Walter has brought in. Silbert is exquisite in the role. Every element of the New York Lower East Side Yiddish accent, every nuance of his gestures, his manner of moving, or mopping his brow, all are definitive. Solomon, a man near 90, a man willing to strike out again, take up a new challenge is a brilliant foil that Miller has created against which to compare Walter.

So, lesser Miller, but still lots of meat to chew on after the show.

Through June 22 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or acttheatre.org)

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