Last season, the centennial of Arthur Miller’s birth was marked by Broadway revivals of “A View from the Bridge” and “The Crucible” by the experimental Belgian director Ivo van Hove. But wouldn’t it have been more productive to examine some of Miller’s lesser-known plays rather than resort to shock value and over-the-top visual displays in an awkward attempt to spruce up his most-famous tragedies?
For instance, off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre Company recently staged Miller’s World War II thriller “Incident at Vichy.” And now the Roundabout Theatre Company (which just reached its own semicentennial) is reviving Miller’s family drama “The Price” with a solid, unexpectedly compelling production led by Danny DeVito (who is making his Broadway debut at age 72), Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub and Jessica Hecht.
Victor (Ruffalo), a longtime NYPD officer, has returned to his family’s old town house with his wife Esther (Hecht) in order to sell off his late father’s possessions, which are piled high in the attic. As Solomon (DeVito), an elderly and quirky antique dealer, appraises the goods, it is revealed that Victor quit school in order to support his once rich, suddenly penniless father during the Depression, while his brother Walter (Shalhoub) went on to become a successful doctor.
Walter’s unexpected appearance brings to the forefront all of the family’s unresolved mysteries and tensions, including why Walter refused Victor a loan years ago and whether their father really needed Victor’s great self-sacrifice.
“The Price” can easily come off as slow and hokey today, but director Terry Kinney (co-founder of Chicago’s famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company), achieves a fine balance between Ruffalo, Shalhoub and Hecht’s raw, accusatory battling and DeVito’s spirited, minutely-detailed character acting.