Today, our friend Violet Dutchblogger noted that @RCArmitage is now following The Roundabout Theater in New York. Roundabout is a repertoire venue, which means it stages a few works a season for limited runs, and it’s a favorite for theater subscription holders. ( I used to be one of them.)
It is certainly possible that the reason for the “follow” by @RCArmitage, is that sometime in the season after next, he and Yaël Farber have something planned. But, could it be even sooner? Could it be this year? Did you notice that The Price by Arthur Miller, is on the program for the 2016-17 season of Roundabout?
Remember this tweet from @AskArmitage?
Since I read that tweet, I’ve wondered what it is about The Price that engaged Richard Armitage.
The Price is on the list for Roundabout this year, though it just doesn’t seem like a that would entice Yaël Farber, considering that her portfolio often focuses on woman’s issues.
Although prolific, in numbers, only a handful of Arthur Miller’s plays were commercial successes,- in order – All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, View from the Bridge and The Price, written and produced in that order. Incident at Vichy and After the Fall, both of which came before The Price, have both been the subject of intense criticism, except by scholars and critics.
The Price is considered one of Miller’s American Dream (Maybe gone wrong?) along with All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and to a certain extent The Crucible.
It’s a psychological drama with little action.
Briefly, taking place sometime in the 50’s, we find Victor Franz, dressed in a police sergeant’s uniform, in the attic of his former grandiose home in NY (maybe Brooklyn) where he and his wife are waiting for an appraiser/buyer, in order to sell the contents of Victor’s family home, which are all now piled into the attic.
In the good old days, Victor, his brother Walter and their parents, lived a wealthy life in New York, owning fine objects and the brownstone, itself. But when the depression hit, their father lost everything, and apparently became a broken man. He didn’t work, he didn’t seek other employment – he just sort of faded into the background. The family moved up to the attic and rented out the rest of the house. Shortly thereafter, his wife died, and father was left on his own.
We learn, once Victor’s wife arrives at the location, that when the crisis hit, Victor was attending or getting ready to attend university to study science An amateur inventor, and a very bright lad, he had a fine future in front of him. His older brother, Walter, was a surgeon or on his way to becoming one, and doing well. Victor gives up his dreams of attending college when his older brother refuses to give him $ 500 to continue in school. Instead, he suggests that Victor “ask Dad.”
Victor never does, stays on the police force, and supports his father for the rest of the old man’s life. He and his resentful ( and possibly alcoholic) wife, live a mediocre life on a policeman’s salary, struggling for anything they want.
Thus everything is set up in the play early on. The action in the play has happened in the past, and it remains to the present for the showdown between Walter, who may or may not meet up with Victor ( they’ve been estranged for 16 years) to get his share of the loot.
The couple are then joined by the appraiser, Mr. Solomon, who was actually called out of retirement for this appraisal and sale. High on Victor’s mind, especially stirred on by his wife, Esther, is the need to get the best price for the furniture. As is often the case, those items of value and sentiment which one thinks are worth so much to them, are not as marketable as one hopes.
Walter does arrive on the scene, and, over the course of the drama, family secrets unfold – including the fact that Dad actually did have some money which gave him an annual income, so that he could have helped Victor out – which would have et Victor on a different, and presumably, more successful course. He could have changed Victor’s mediocre life.
But Victor never asks, and this is one of the buried secrets of the play.
This is a play about choices, family relationships, and the psychological needs that drive us. Through the discussion between Victor and Walter, it turns out that Victor probably knew his father had some money, and yet, for some reason, he repressed that knowledge, and lived a life completely different from what he dreamed of.
There are pages and pages more that could be written about this play, including a close examination of the role of Solomon, whose wisdom and approach to life is in counterpoint to the paths taken by both the brothers and a closer examination of Esther.
The Price, the title, represents, not so much the price the brothers will get from the stuff they’re selling, but rather, the price we pay for our choices in life. Did we get rooked, or did we make a good deal.
So, I still ask, what interested Richard Armitage in The Price, and why is it a favorite of his? Maybe I will find out sooner than I thought.