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Chapel Hill, NC's Deep Dish Theater Company will christen its new performance space at the Dillard's end of University Mall with a stellar production of The Price, a 1968 domestic drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller (The Crucible and Death of a Salesman). The new storefront theater is located between Cameron's and The Print Shop and behind Branching Out.
The Price opened at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway on Feb. 7, 1968 and ran for 429 performances. It starred Harold Gary, Pat Hingle, Arthur Kennedy, and Kate Reid. Ulu Grosbard directed. The Price was nominated for two Tony® Awards (including best play). George C. Scott won an Emmy Award for the subsequent television production, co-starring Colleen Dewhurst.
The New York Times called the original Broadway production "one of the most engrossing and entertaining plays that Miller has ever written. It is superbly, even flamboyantly theatrical.…" Variety described The Price as "a challenging, gripping and moving drama." And Newsday declared that the play was Miller's "finest drama since 'The Crucible.'"
Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick says this masterpiece of Modern Drama is a moving, often funny look at two brothers struggling to escape their past. "I knew of the play," Frellick confesses, "but I only read it about a year ago, looking through a collection of Miller's plays. Since then, I've been surprised at how many people have told me they've never read or seen it either, and once they do they wonder why it's not done more often."
He adds, "Nobody writes like Miller. His plays work on so many levels — viscerally, intellectually, emotionally — all at the same time. But what drew me to the play most urgently was how economic issues had such an impact on the lives of these characters, just as those issues do today for so many of us."
In The Price, Frellick says, "Victor Franz (Bob Bell) returns to the building where he grew up to sell his father's furniture — furniture that has been sitting unused since the father's death 16 years earlier. With his wife, Esther (Marcia Edmundson), he must contend with a wily appraiser, Gregory Solomon (Alan Criswell), and his long-estranged brother, Walter (Tom Marriott), who arrives with an offer that may change all of their lives forever."
According to Variety: "... [T]he conflict, the basic jealousy and the lifetime of, if not hatred, at least corrosive, though unacknowledged anger, is between two brothers, as well as resentment against a selfish, child-devouring father. The siblings meet, after a sixteen-year estrangement, in the attic of the family residence, where the old furniture is to be disposed of. The first is a policeman who sacrificed his education and probably a career as a scientist to care for his ruined, invalid father. The other, who arrives late, is an eminent surgeon who walked out on the demands of family to concentrate on medicine and personal success. Miller works up to the showdown scene slowly. The policeman and his wife first talk of the past and present to fill in some of the background. Then there is a very long, richly amusing, curiously revealing and enjoyable scene between the officer and a marvelously crotchety, humorous and wise old Jewish dealer who has come to buy the furniture but refuses to set a price without prolonged philosophic conversation. When the surgeon arrives, the brothers take a little time for amenities and feeling each other out before the basis of their long alienation and mutual bitterness emerges into short, blunt, enraged accusations. It is a taut, exciting and superbly theatrical scene, and it reveals the characters, including strengths and weaknesses, of the brothers to each other and themselves — as well as to the audience."
Frellick and his production staff — set designer Rob Hamilton, lighting designer Steve Dubay, costume designer Mardi Magoo, and sound designer Al Singer — will have their hands full recreating the third floor of a Manhattan brownstone, circa 1969. "You need a lot of furniture," Frellick quips.
In his pre-show publicity, Frellick claims The Price is "pure Arthur Miller." He explains: "All the sharply observed behavior, the impassioned arguments, and the casual eloquence of America's greatest living playwright is in evidence here, not to mention the warmth and humor which people sometimes forget are so much a part of his plays. Many of his dramas are grand, large-cast events that weave a broad social fabric, but in 'The Price' he boils everything down to the bare essentials — four people spending a couple of hours in a single room."
Frellick adds, "One of my favorite things about Miller's writing is his ability to find an event or setting that functions both naturally and metaphorically. The characters in 'The Price' are all struggling to come to terms with financial decisions and economic forces that have shaped their lives, and the attempt to place a value on the brothers' inheritance is a perfect mirror of that psychological 'accounting.'"
The Deep Dish Theater Company presents The Price Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 27-March 1 and March 6-8 and 13-15, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 2 and 9, at 3 p.m. at the Dillard's end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $12 ($10 students and seniors), except pay-what-you-can March 2 matinee. NOTE: There will be a discussion after the March 9 matinee, and the Deep Dish Book Club will discuss Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (http://www.henryholt.com/readingguides/ehrenreich.htm) before the March 13 performance. 919/968-1515. http://www.deepdishtheater.org/price/price.html.