The Price now on in The Gate Theatre in Dublin, involves two brothers, Victor and Walter Franz, and focuses on selling their dead parents’ belongings, all housed in the attic of a large brownstone because the building is about to be demolished and they must dispose of the remaining furniture. The set design was impressive with an attic full of beautiful antique furniture loaded to the ceiling. A giant harp takes centre stage.
The Price, although set in 1968, has at its heart the timeless themes of family relationships and materialism. As well as being the price that an appraiser was willing to pay for these antiques, it also has a deeper theme of the price we all pay for the choices we make in our lives. Their father was bankrupt during the great depression of the 1930s which meant Vic had to sacrifice his education to look after the old man ending up as on the police force for 28 years. On the other hand, his brother Walter went on to become an eminent and wealthy doctor and washed his hands of his family not speaking to Vic for 16 years. Vic and his wife feel they sacrificed their dreams and eked out a ‘living like mice’. We feel Vic’s resentment towards his brother from the very start and his wife’s frustration with Vic who on the verge of retirement is still dithering about his future where in scene one, we meet them in the attic preparing to meet the appraiser.
The appraiser, Gregory Solomon, turns out to be an elderly Jewish gentleman brimming with a zest for life despite being nearly 90 and a real character to boot. He regales Vic with tales of his past – three marriages, several bust businesses and some great stories. He is a realist and a man who lives in the moment contrasting with Vic who seems stuck in the past and unable to move forward. He talks honestly about the disposable nature of things, how modern living places no importance on antiques that last and how shopping has become the new happiness – “…everything has to be disposable. Because you see the main thing today is shopping. Years ago a person, he was unhappy, didn’t know what to do with himself; he go to church, start a revolution, something. Today you’re unhappy? Can’t figure it out? What is the salvation? Go shopping.” Gregory fails to make an offer until the very end of the first part and just as they have agreed on a price, Walter shows up.
The second part is more about the brothers and years of resentment and bitterness bubbling over into angry scenes of confrontation. Walter waltzes in after sixteen years and takes over the deal much to Vic’s dismay. Both brothers have their own version of the past which has led them to where they are. Each brother believes that he has paid the greater price. The real truth about the father comes out in the end but it is too little, too late.
The production stars Barry McGovern, Fiona Bell, Denis Conway and J. Stadlen. All four actors/actresses play their parts to perfection. The play is engaging, at times both funny and touching.
The ending is reminiscent of the bitter, calculating old man who ruined his sons’ relationship as Gregory Solomon sits in his chair and laughs an evil laugh. Well worth a night out in The Gate – you won’t be disappointed.