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Last weekend for 'The Price'

Pictured (L to R) are John Shillington and Samson Hood in a scene from Arthur Miller's “The Price,” playing at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma through April 7.

Eric Chazankin
Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.

“The Price” of the title has two meanings. The first is simple: the price of furniture being sold. The other is far more profound: it's the complicated legacy of the past, what we pay for our hopes, dreams, desires throughout our lives.

Facts

THE PRICE

What: A “deeply moving” play by Pulitzer Prize-Winning playright Arthur Miller examining two estranged brothers' relationship when they are brought back together by their father's death.
When: Friday, March 29 at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 30 at 8 p.m., Friday, April 5 at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m., Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m.
Cost: $22 for Seniors 65 and over, $15 for ages 22 and under
Where: Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North at Skillman Lane
Tickets: By phone Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 707.763.8920 or online at cinnabartheater.org.

This play could well be called “The Choice,” because, on looking back, one's past, one's path, is marked by choices. Those choices have led our characters, and the audience, to their present – for better or worse.

“You have to make decisions,” one character says “and you never know what's what until it's too late.”

As a result, the play is dotted with “if only” moments that must surely resonate with most audience members and have them thinking about their own lives, their own choices, and their own price – long after they've left the theater.

Cinnabar's stage has no curtain. As a result, those arriving early have time to study the set: a marvelous recreation of a cluttered attic: dust-sheeted furniture, chairs and tables piled high, bureaus and mirrors and lamps; pictures and photographs and a fabulous old morning glory horn Victrola.

Director Sheri Lee Miller isn't afraid of slow pacing and it works marvelously as the show opens. We have no idea what's going on as a single man enters but, as he moves around this shrouded room, we see what he sees, a portal to his past. I would swear the theater even had the comforting, nostalgic smell of a warm, stuffy attic.

We have come to expect quality from Cinnabar Theater productions and are not disappointed by Scenic Designer David Lear's wonderful set, Wayne Hovey's ingenious lighting design or Lisa Eldredge's evocative costumes.

We are equally pleased by the actors.

Samson Hood deftly walks the tightrope of Victor Franz: combining the character's timidity and defeat, his fear of age, his loathing of his job yet uncertainty about what comes next. Miller, and Hood, make it clear Victor is that often-rare human, a truly decent person. Was the price he paid too high?

Madeleine Ashe as Victor's wife, Esther, handles her role well. Esther has a drinking problem that may be more than a problem. She struggles with the knowledge she may have a husband problem as well — after more than 20 years together, did she make the right choice?

John Shillington is well-cast as Walter Franz, Victor's successful surgeon brother. The brothers have been estranged for years and the complex reasons for this are explored in the second act. But Walter has struggled for self-knowledge in a different way than his brother and although he assures us he's “fine,” we are left wondering if, indeed, he is. What price has he paid?

The fourth member of the acting quartet, Charles Siebert, as the jovial, understanding and philosophical used furniture dealer Gregory Solomon, steals the proverbial show — you don't want to watch anyone else when he's on stage. Although Miller didn't write comedies – and make no mistake, “The Price” is a drama with humor – he and Siebert really deliver some fine and funny lines through the character of Solomon.

Finally, two nitpicks. In the first act, Siebert as Solomon lights a cigar. While it's allowed to burn out quickly, cigar smoke is pungent, the theater small and the smell hard to deal with. I would have been much happier had the actor mimed the cigar.

Second: Miller is a literate, erudite writer and his characters speak fluently and grammatically except for one word. As a former copy editor, this reviewer was distracted four times, when “lie” was correct, but “lay” was spoken instead.

(Contact Katie Watts at argus@arguscourier.com.)

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