Chapel Hill, NC's Deep Dish Theater Company, newly relocated to a storefront theater at the Dillard's end of University Mall, adds another gem to its theatrical crown with a luminous production of The Price, boldly but sensitively staged by Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick. This compelling 1968 domestic drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman) unfolds in the dusty third-floor storage room of a soon-to-be demolished Manhattan brownstone.
The brownstone was once home to seriously estranged brothers Victor and Walter Franz (Bob Bell and Tom Marriott) — a policeman barely scraping by and a wealthy surgeon — and their long-dead parents. Walter and Victor haven't spoken in 16 years. The paternal attic is chock-full of furniture, old clothes, other personal items, and memories.
Victor, the practical lower-middle-class brother, and his somewhat whiny wife, Esther (Marcia Edmundson), keep their appointment with Gregory Solomon (Alan Criswell), a shrewd Jewish furniture appraiser seemingly more interested in making small talk than actually putting a price on the attic's contents. But Solomon is merely sizing up the sellers and probing the strength of their emotional attachments to various pieces of furniture, a harp, etc. He finally offers the cash-strapped Franzes $1,100, which is probably about a third of what the furniture is worth. Victor grudgingly accepts, without even attempting to bargain; and then Walter walks in unexpectedly and does his damnedest to queer the deal and embarrass victor in front of Solomon and his wife.
Old resentments quickly surface and the brothers have a long-delayed heated confrontation that allows Bob Bell and Tom Marriott to demonstrate the depth and breadth of their acting craft. They are simply superb. So are Alan Criswell and Marcia Edmundson.
Criswell's characterization of Solomon is a bit of a caricature, but then so is the character. Edmundson likewise makes the most her moments in the spotlight as Victor's angry wife, desperate to quit living paycheck to paycheck and disgusted with her husband's poor bargaining skills.
Set designer Rob Hamilton does a thoroughly professional job of recreating the crowded attic; lighting designer Steve Dubay ably illuminates the action; costume designer Mardi Magoo dresses the cast in a handsome wardrobe, circa 1969; and sound designer Al Singer hit all his music and sound cues right on the mark. All in all, they put a nice polish on a sparkling show.
The Deep Dish Theater Company presents The Price Thursday-Saturday, March 6-8 and 13-15, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 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). NOTE 1: Deep Dish's new storefront theater is located in the area behind Branching Out, which is located between Cameron's and The Print Shop. Enter through Branching Out. NOTE 2: 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.