Theater Review - Family feud, Arthur Miller's The Price

All sorts of items clutter the attic that provides Arthur Miller's The Price with its set, including a rapier, a harp and a single oar. The rapier neatly foreshadows the verbal duels to come and the harp evokes the refinement of an era long past. But in the Jewish Theatre of the South production, it's the oar, alas, that provides the most apt symbol for Miller's script, in which the conflicts move in circles like an under-equipped rowboat.

The well-cast show features Barry Stoltze as Victor, a beat cop trying to sell his late father's old furniture. He blames his perpetual money woes on his estranged brother Walter (Chris Kayser), who became a successful doctor while Victor joined the police force to support their father.

Anyone who's ever tried to sell a used car can sympathize with Victor as he contends with the ancient but foxy appraiser (David Milford) who's an old hand at overdramatic haggling and lowball offers. The fraught situation touches on trust issues, but the dramatic tension doesn't grow taut until Walter unexpectedly arrives at Act One's end.

Walter surprises us by being not an icy automaton but a mensch wanting to make amends with his brother. He suggests a more lucrative deal for the furniture than the appraiser's price, with Kayser seasoning Walter's peace offerings with a hint of condescension to Victor. But if they could bury the hatchet there wouldn't be a play, so the brothers bicker over old grievances, then bicker over them again.

In The Price Miller expands on Death of a Salesman's sibling rivalry between Willy Loman and his wealthy brother. Victor's grudge is a credible example of the bad blood that families can foster, but proves a minor episode for a stage play. Compared to the charged-up conflicts of Salesman, The Price feels marked down.

The Price plays through Feb. 23 at Jewish Theatre of the South, Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. 3 and 7 p.m. $18-$24. 770-395-2654. www.atlantajcc.org.