Tuesday December 12th 2017

“The Price”

I must preface this by stating, ” I believe Arthur Miller’s plays are great literature, as well as some of the deepest works of our time”.I also love the work of The Raven Theatre , one of our best storefronts ( for those of you unfamiliar with The Raven, their home used to be a grocery store and is now a thriving entertainment center. So, when you match a solid theater company and a writer such as Miller, one can only anticipate a solid evening of thought provoking entertainment, and that is exactly what you get in their new production of Miller’s “The Price” ( one that many have never seen)!

Directed by Michael Mendenian on one of the most extraordinary sets they have had(Amanda Rozmiarek) filled with every type of furniture, appliance and relic one might find hidden away in attics all over the country ( Mary O’Dowd and her crew did outstanding research and work) this four person play, that takes place in the mid sixties is an indepth study of people and their feelings. The story begins with Victor Franz ( the always reliable Chuck Spencer)walking into what appears to be the attic/upper floor of his boyhood home, filled with all of the props/furniture previously mentioned. During the early moments of this play, he searches about looking at various items and while there is no dialogue, we know that he is thinking about memories that are stirred by seeing some of the items. As it turns out, His father has died and the house is being demolished so all of the “family treasures” must be removed.

Victor, a cop, near retirement, has a brother, Walter, a successful doctor who has been estranged from for what seems to be a lifetime. Walter has not returned any of his calls and the deadline is near, so he is at the home, preparing to meet with an estate buyer ( also known as a used furniture dealer), one Gregory Solomon ( played with great charm by Leonard Kraft). Victor’s wife, Esther ( a strong performance by Joann Montemurro) is also there as they had made plans for an evening out. What takes place in the first act is a lot of groundwork for what is to come. It starts off a little slow as the puzzle pieces are assembled and laced on the “table”(in this case, the already crowded stage) as we learn a great deal about the siblings and their father as well as why Mr. Solomon is doing what he is doing.

After much haggling and soul searching, Victor comes to terms with Mr. Solomon and as the cash is being handed to him, in walks the brother, Walter ( once again, Jon Steinhagen shows why he is one of Chicago’s finest character actors) and the lights dim. Act two begins in this spot and the good doctor feels that they are being under offered on the value of these peices of their lives. During the rest of the act, we have stories of the past that arise and the errors in judgement that were made, the resentment of each brother for what they felt was favoritism towards the other. We hear about the sacrifices made, the costs ( not always monetary) each one had to bear and many other little family secrets. The doctor tries in many ways to compensate his brother for all he lost over the years by being the one who cared for their father in the end.

Much of what Miller brings to the stage is about choices each of the brothers made and in some cases, choices they are still yet to make and what effect they have had in the past and again, what effect the new ones will have on the rest of their lives. During this back and forth, revealing of secrets between the two brothers ( an outstanding job of direction as they give and take with each other), Esther gets in her two cents and so does Mr. Solomon, who is in his 90’s and has retired but due to the call from Victor ( Victor called from an old yellow page directory) and the stuff in the attic has decided that he needs to go back to work instead of aging like until he has no value at all.

Strong character studies make this two hours plus a thought provoking drama ( which is what Miller was famous for); one that may cause you to rethink your own identity and relationship with your loved ones. What if this was your life? What is you had an almost non-existent relationship with a sibling and at the end had some parental proprty that had to be disposed of? How would you handle it? Are we entitled to what is left, one more than the other, because of age or who was more involved? Miller examines this with a fine tooth comb and the good people at The Raven bring it to life!

“The Price” will continue at The Raven Theatre located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville) through April 14th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $30 ( $5 off for students and seniors)and can be purchased by calling 773-338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com

They have free parking adjacent to the theater and some street parking is also available. The theater is handicapped accessible and the 22 Clark Street bus stops within feet of the theater entrance. Quality theater at an affordable price, that’s The Raven Theatre.

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