An Artful Find: ICT’s Presentation of Arthur Miller’s “The Price”

By Ernest Kearney  —  The International City Theatre mounts sturdy, structured and splendid productions of nearly every play it presents.  The failing is often in the choice of plays selected to stage.  Cardboard Piano, End of the Rainbow, Glorious and especially Abigail 1702 – polish those coprolites till your arm falls off and they’re just not going to shine.

A Walk in the Woods and Sondheim on Sondheim are not awful plays and have proved perfect vehicles for the talents and skills of the good folks at ICT. * writer's hand *

The Price, Arthur Miller’s 1968 play about two sons from a dysfunctional family dealing with the flotsam and jetsam of their deceased father is a ponderous, convoluted, and frustrating play.  But it is certainly not an awful one. ** writer's hand **

Victor (David Nevell) is a New York cop facing retirement.  He and his long-suffering wife Esther (Elyse Mirto) have arrived at Victor’s late father’s apartment, cluttered to overflowing with the possessions of a life that knew both the highest of heights and the lowest of lows.

They are there to meet with Mister Solomon (Tony Abatemarco) a dealer in secondhand furniture who they hope to get a good price from for the wreckage of the father’s life.

In a play already laden with biblical references, Miller lobs in another, with the return of the prodigal son, Walter (Bo Foxworth). Miller does give the parable his own spin, exchanging the role of older with younger brother and deeming the returning son crowned with success and hence the “love” of God.

ICT always proves itself a lure to high-caliber talent, and for The Price they’ve gathered alumni from both L.A.’s Skylight Theatre Company and The Antaeus Theatre Company.

The acting cannot be faulted.

Nevell, so memorable in A Walk in the Woods, touches all the emotional bases, and then some, of the conflicted brother who may not be able to forgive his sibling, but who may have learned to forgive himself.

Mirto is superb at walking the tightrope stretched between the two brothers, as she struggles with crossing from a past that is unfixable to a future that may still hold hope.

Foxworth, who left the care of his elderly father to his younger brother while he obtained the education required to assure a wealthy medical career, has the role whose terrain is fraught with Bouncing Betties.  It is easy to hate Walter, and in the hands of a lesser actor hating him is unavoidable.  Foxworth however, denies the audience that easy out, and allows us to see him as a man who must bear the chains forged by his choices just as his brother does.

Where Miller’s craft comes in, and the question for the audience enters, is in resolving which set of those chains are cast of lead and which of gold.

Finishing out this cast is Abatemarco as the wily Solomon who swings between the wise King of the Hebrew Bible and Faust’s wheeling-dealing Mephistopheles.

Elyse Mirto, David Nevell in “The Price” / Photo by Tracey Roman

Like a New England lighthouse whose beacon is only visible due to the firm and steady structure that holds it aloft, Abatemarco’s performance shines in excess to the luminosity of his appreciable talents due to the solid support of those with whom he shares the stage.

YurI Okahana’s outstanding set is like a cavern of familial history to which Dan Weingarten provides a lighting landscape that only enhances the musty mood of those subterranean passages we all have buried within us.

Director John Henry Davis conducts his cast and brings forth all the meaning found in the score Miller’s drama, which he maintained was written in response to the Vietnam War.

Miller in speaking of the play stated, The Price grew out of a need to reconfirm the power of the past, the seedbed of current reality, and the way to possibly reaffirm cause and effect in an insane world.”

Personally, though the play is a favorite of mine, I don’t see it.

But hence ICT, Davis and his cast have achieved that most special of theatrical evenings with The Price; one where the experience of it proves as enjoyable, albeit just as challenging, as the discussion afterwards.

♦    ♦    ♦

 

* writer's hand * The exception that tests this rule was the ICT’s recent, lackluster staging of The Glass Menagerie by Mr. Davis.

 

** writer's hand ** The Price was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Play category but lost out to Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

(NOTE: In Featured Image  —  Tony Abatemarco, David Nevell in “The Price” / Photo by Tracey Roman)

 

♦     ♦    

 

International City Theatre
located in the
Long Beach Performing Arts Center
330 E. Seaside Way,
Long Beach, CA 90802

For Full Season Information

Phone (562) 436-4610

or go to

InternationalCityTheatre.org.


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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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