Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

10/08/2013 - 07/09/2013

Production Details

“One of the most engrossing and entertaining plays that Miller has ever written … he holds the interest with the skill of a born story-teller …. superbly theatrical” – New York Times

The Price, one of master playwright Arthur Miller’s most successful plays, is a funny and deeply moving story of two brothers in conflict over their father.

In 1968, in an attic room crowded with the furniture of their youth, the brothers meet again after sixteen years. The Great Crash of 1929 had ruined their widowed father. Victor, loyal to his father dropped out of college to earn a living for them both, and ended up in the police force. Walter went on to become a wealthy surgeon. Now the building where they used to live is to be torn down, and the furniture must be sold. The question of how to divide the proceeds cuts open the long-buried lives of both men, as well as that of Victor’s wife, Esther, and reveals the choices each has made, and the consequences they now have to face. 

Between them is an unlikely arbiter – a ninety-year old Russian Jewish junk merchant, a surrogate father sitting in the paternal chair, commenting, sympathising, reprimanding and advising, before counting out the money – the price paid for the decisions of a lifetime. 

“You wanted a real life. And that’s an expensive thing. It costs.” – Walter 

“I look at my life and the whole thing is incomprehensible to me.” – Victor 

“…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.” – Solomon

Miller is best known for his large-scale award-winning plays Death of a Salesman (Circa 2006), The Crucible and All My Sons (Circa 2012), but The Price is Miller at his most intimate.

“The sources of a play are both obvious and mysterious,” says Miller. “The primary force driving The Price was a tangle of memories of people. The central figures, the New York cop Victor Franz and his elder brother, Walter, are not precise portraits of people I knew long, long ago, but close enough, and Gregory Solomon, the old furniture dealer, is as close as I could get to reproducing a dealer’s Russian-Yiddish accent that still tickles me whenever I hear it in memory. 

The Price also grew out of a need to reconfirm the power of the past, the seedbed of current reality, and the way to possibly reaffirm cause and effect in an insane world.  These things move together, idea feeding characters and characters deepening idea.”

The past, says Miller, “looked at bravely, can liberate ….”

Directed by SUSAN WILSON

“Scintillating, powerful and moving … with lots of comedy … drama in a league of its own ”  – Telegraph

“Resonates more than ever” – The List


Set Design – John Hodgkins; Lighting Design – Marcus McShane; Costume Design – Gillie Coxill;

10th August – 7th  September
1 Taranaki Street, Wellington 
$25 SPECIALS  – Friday 9th August – 8pm;   Sunday 11th August – 4pm; 
AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 13th August

Performance times:
Tuesday & Wednesday – 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 8pm
Sunday – 4pm

Ticket Prices:
Adults – $46; Concessions – $38; Friends of Circa – $33  
Under 25s – $25; Groups 6+ – $39 
BOOKINGS:  Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992; 

THE PRICE is proudly supported by INTERCONTINENTAL Wellington

Esther Franz:  JUDE GIBSON
Gregory Solomon:  RAY HENWOOD

Lighting Design:  MARCUS McSHANE
Costume Design:  GILLIE COXILL 

Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator:  Rowan McShane
Sound Design:  Matt Eller
Publicity:  Claire Treloar
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Kraftwork Design
Photography:  Stephen A’Court
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office Manager:  Linda Wilson 

2hrs 30 mins incl. interval

The Price worth the long preamble

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 13th Aug 2013

Susan Wilson has triumphed yet again with a compelling production of an Arthur Miller play. 

With The Price we are in familiar Miller territory: New York, sibling rivalry, the aftershocks of the Great Depression, American materialism and its corrosive effects on ordinary lives, the search for truth, and the destruction of illusions.

Tennessee Williams’ characters only survive by clinging to their illusions; Miller’s characters only survive by stripping away their illusions whatever the cost until the truth is found. A price will be paid. [More]


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Highly credible and creditable

Review by John Smythe 11th Aug 2013

When Wellington first saw The Price in 1969 at Downstage, the year after its world premiere in New York, Ray Henwood played the wealthy older brother, Walter. Now he plays the octogenarian antique dealer, Gregory Solomon.

The late sixties saw the whole western world questioning its value systems: a cultural revolution was well under way, reflected in such films as Antonini’s Blow-Up (1966) and Fonda & Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969). Between them Rado and Ragni’s Hair, directed by Joe Papp, opened off-Broadway (1967). 

It was in this context that Arthur Miller wrote The Price, not about the baby boomer-led counter culture but questioning the values their parents were living by in the wake of two world wars and the Great Depression. Back then it may have been seen as the backstory to the socio-sexual revolution. Forty-five years on, following two more sharemarket crashes and in the context of a never-ending recession, the same questions arise: what are we doing with our lives and why?

It has to be said the previous Miller plays produced this century by Circa and directed by Susan Wilson – Death of a Salesman (2006) and All My Sons (2012) – were more dynamic in their present action and more profoundly thrilling to witness. By comparison The Price is extremely expositional with relatively little to offer by way of subtext we can engage with or opportunities for multi-viewpoint emotional empathy as we wrestle with compounding moral dilemmas.

Nevertheless, there is a great depth of social history to be mined from the slowly-revealed stories of the four characters and there is drama in the way the moral landscape shifts with each new revelation; the performances in this production are exemplary and the setting itself speaks volumes.

The catalyst for lancing the boils of unresolved resentments is the selling off of family furniture by two estranged brothers. It is stored in the attic of an about-to-be-demolished brownstone which has apparently been inhabited by their (unseen) uncles who allowed the accumulated family ‘junk’ to be stored there after their father – who had lost everything, including his spirit, in The Crash – died.

John Hodgkins’ detailed set, lit by Marcus McShane, evokes a solid and long-lost past. Gillie Coxill’s costume designs speak eloquently of where and how each character now lives their life. And, every now and then, suddenly-revealed items from the brothers’ or their parents’ pasts enliven the visual communication.

Initially the NYPD cop, Victor Franz, first to arrive and remove the covers, seems happy enough with his lot; indeed he chuckles along with ‘The Laughing Policeman’ as it spins on the old wind-up gramophone. But his has been a life of compromise and unrealised potential, having side-lined a promising vocation in science to look after his shattered father. Gavin Rutherford gives a superbly nuanced performance as the variously sanguine, resentful, vengeful and baffled Victor.

As his wife, Esther, who craves a better lifestyle and seeks solace in drink, Jude Gibson captures her disempowered status well. It’s not so much a roller-coaster as a dodgem ride she takes us on, punctuated by shocking collisions with each new revelation. Her ever-changing responses keep nudging us to consider how we would feel and what we would do in her situation.

Between them Rutherford and Gibson handle a great deal of expositional dialogue in the first half-hour with flair, maintaining our interest even when the playwright has not provoked us with a strong need to know all that detail.

The arrival of Gregory Solomon, the 89 year-old semi-retired second hand furniture dealer, is a breath of fresh-air and Ray Henwood relishes the role, balancing wit and gravitas with consummate skill.

The reputation of Victor’s much more ambitious and now wealthy doctor brother, Walter, precedes him: they have not communicated with each other for 16 years; Walter’s academic and professional successes were only made possible through Victor’s sacrifice; he has infuriated Victor by not responding to phone messages all week … But there is more to Walter’s story, too, than we first realise, and Christopher Brougham gives a compelling performance, contrasting surgical precision with outbursts of passion. 

Although it all gets very complex, the issues being confronted are timeless and universal. Victor’s suggestion as to how the tax system might be used to maximise their returns – “All perfectly legal” – resonates as especially topical. But it is the authenticity of the emotions, be they suppressed, leaked or fully expressed, that delivers the most riveting moments.  

There are times when I wish the actors would stop moving randomly about – presumably attempting to relieve the welter of words with some semblance of action – and trust the substance of their interactions to engage us. Otherwise Susan Wilson, as director, has helmed a highly credible and creditable production.  

The way it concludes could be written off as a glib little book-ending flourish but I see it as a cue to reconsider the degree to which we have become sucked in to their curdling and swirling money-centric mess. It’s Solomon who gets the last word, as it were. As a dispossessed Russian refugee who has known loss and suffering and found a way to live through it with that ineffable Jewish humour, his final gesture comes over to me as a wakeup call.

You may think differently. See – and feel – for yourself.


Editor August 17th, 2013

And tonight (Sat 17 Aug) THE PRICE will play at Circa at 8pm - and the reading of SEED will proceed as planned at 2pm. 

Editor August 16th, 2013

THE PRICE at Circa has been cancelled tonight (16 August) and patrons have been phoned to transfer to other nights.

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