Arthur Miller’s “The Price” is currently playing at The Bay Theatre Company in Annapolis and it gets two different reviews. The show itself was a well put on production, unfortunately the theatre facilities make it hard to recommend the show. To start with the positive aspects of my experience we should focus on the show. There is a reason Arthur Miller is one of the great American playwrights. The show takes a bit of time to get going, but by the second act it is a deeply enthralling piece of family drama dealing with the life choices the characters made in dealing with their responsibilities within the family unit. The show takes place in the attic of a Manhattan brownstone in 1968 as Vic, a policeman, is finally selling off the possessions of his long ago deceased parents since the brownstone they were stored in is being torn down. He had attempted to reach his estranged brother regarding the sale, but to no avail. Towards the end of the first act Vic’s brother, a successful doctor, arrives after having not seen each other for 16 years. The second act delves into the reasons for the estrangement and the perceptions of each brother about what led to the estrangement and whether a reconciliation was even possible. The core issue between the brothers was the care of their father after he lost everything during the Great Depression and the choices each brother made in dealing with the situation. Amazingly, for a play that was written in 1968 it still resonates today and felt like it could have been updated to modern times with only minor tweaks to the script. The first act of the show shouldn’t be forgotten either as it centers around Vic’s negotiation with a furniture appraiser, Solomon, he found in the yellow pages that was around 90 years old and had been out of the business for the past 5 years. Solomon may be retired and just getting back into the game, but still had the gift of gab of a salesman and he used it in trying to avoid offering a price on the furniture. The other overarching storyline that intertwined the others was Vic’s wife trying to get him to retire as a policeman as he had promised to do several years earlier and to look for other work that he would enjoy more. The production as quite entertaining, with my biggest complaint being an almost 8 minute opening of the show where Vic is walking around the attic looking at various items that were stored there with no dialogue. Silence can be powerful in a show, but for a show that is heavily dependent on dialogue it dragged on way too long and was unnecessary. My other compliant was the decision to stick to the dialogue in the original script to faithfully. It resulted in characters referring to each other as “kid” and “doll”. It felt hokey and antiquated, especially for the powerfulness of the remainder of the story.
I wish I could stop there and say check out the show, but the seating at The Bay Theatre Company need updating and badly. It was crammed together to get every last person in, but resulted in an uncomfortable experience. The rows of 10 seats across consist of cushioned folding chairs with no arms next to each other with no space between each chair. While your knees weren’t jammed against the chair in front of you, you could easily touch the chair in front of you by merely extending your arm past the length of your knee. And if someone needs to get by you would have to stand up and fold up your chair so there was room for them to get by. On top of that there is an insufficient height difference between each row. I am over six feet tall and I had a gentlemen in front of me that I had to look around for the entire performance.
While the production on stage was excellent I just can’t see myself returning to a venue that takes an hour to get to from my home in the DC metro area that had such an uncomfortable viewing experience. Especially, when there are so many great theatres in the immediate DC area that offer such better viewing experiences. Heck, I’ve been to Fringe Festival performances at makeshift venues that have had more comfortable seating and viewing options.