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The Price review at American Airlines Theatre, New York – ‘all-star cast fails to unify’

Danny DeVito, Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub in The Price at New York's American Airlines Theatre. Photo: Joan Marcus

With contrived accents and mannered performances, Terry Kinney’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Price lacks genuine dramatic punch. The tension in this family drama does not accrete, with each performer working against each other in tone and approach.

Since it is Miller, we know the confrontation between estranged brothers Victor (Mark Ruffalo) and Walter (Tony Shalhoub), as they sell off their late father’s belongings to an elderly antiques dealer (Danny DeVito), will end badly. Along with Victor’s wife Esther (Jessica Hecht), they argue about such issues as the past, money, sacrifice and ambition.

Even as brothers on different paths, Shalhoub and Ruffalo show no chemistry or kinship. They both wear their characters’ class and changed fortunes uncomfortably. We do not sense the emotional stakes in their fights. Shalhoub resists sincerity even when his character is meant to open up. Ruffalo smiles at the oddest times and seems bemused for much of the play. But when he has to excavate serious emotion, his performance ends up too internalised.

The play is structured in a manner designed to shift our allegiances between the brothers as bits of truth spill out, but neither actor makes his case well. Hecht cuts closest to the Miller quick with her long-pained, disillusioned and fidgety Esther. DeVito starts too hammy and cannot pull back when gravitas is needed.

It is Derek McLane’s haunting set, with its cloud-filled horizon crushed by heavy furniture hanging from the rafters, that sets the right tone for the story meant to unfold.

All-star cast fails to unify in style and so the power of Arthur Miller's tale is diminished

Production Information

The Price
American Airlines Theatre
New York
March 16, 2017
May 7, 2017
Press night
March 16, 2017
Arthur Miller
Jesse Tabish
Terry Kinney
Derek McLane
David Weiner
Rob Milburn, Michael Bodeen
Sarah J Holden
Thomas Schall (fight director), Kate Lundell (props supervisor), Stephen Gabis (dialect coach)
Stage manager
Bess Marie Glorioso
Cast includes
Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub, Jessica Hecht, Danny DeVito
Jim Carnahan
Roundabout Theatre Company
Running time
2hr 30mins