'The price that must be paid' is a theme that Arthur Miller tackles in several of his plays. In this 1968 work, two brothers, estranged for 16 years, meet to dispose of their late father's possessions. The price paid by Victor, the brother who stayed behind and sacrificed his dreams of being a scientist, is apparent. As is the price paid by their father, who lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash. On the surface, brother Walter, is hugely successful but as the play unfolds, the hollowness of success reveals how much he has paid.
In John Dove's moving and powerful production, the comedy is underplayed, but still hits home and he allows the tension to build as the weary, disappointed Victor spars with his wife, Esther, then with the old furniture dealer, Solomon and finally in a thrillingly played confrontation with his brother, in which they battle over the truth of the matter.
As Victor, Greg Powrie is terrific: at turns angry, protective, blustering, vulnerable and sad, and always believable. Aden Gillett is equally impressive as the brother who seized his chance to move on and upwards, dispensing charm but concealing a sadness. As the assessor, wise old Solomon, (James Hayes) never strays into caricature but grasps the humour. Completing a perfectly balanced company is Sally Edwards as Victor's somewhat embittered wife, Esther.
The action is played out on a atmospheric set (Michael Taylor) piled high with belongings and painful half memories for the brothers who seem as dwarfed by the over-sized furniture as they must have been growing up. Miller expertly blends his familiar themes of hazy memories, the road his protagonists didn't or couldn't take and the frailty of human nature. A timely piece as we wonder what price we will ultimately pay for our own rampant materialism.
The Lyceum had a rather mixed 2009, so this excellent, well-cast production of a Miller classic is very welcome.