Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Terry Kinney

Arthur Miller’s The Price – Pithy and Well Realized


 49: 8- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–

Fifty year-old Victor Franz (Mark Ruffalo) is a cop. Entering what used to be his home, dispensing with jacket and firearm, he removes sheets from fine old furniture, picks up paraphernalia- a long oar, a fencing sword, tries the old radio and wind-up phonograph- on which we hear a 1920s laugh track. Above him, Derek McLane’s wonderful set suspends heavy, period furniture as if it were decorative molding on steroids.

Slowly, Victor circumnavigates the crowded, dusty room reacting to memories. One can almost see him think. The place has sat empty since the death of his father, a man whom he cared for and supported, sacrificing personal aspirations. Were it not for the building being torn down, all we see might remain in perpetual stasis.

The amount of time given to perusal is generous, effective, and rather brave. We feel the weight of history and Victor’s attachment. There’s isn’t a cough or rustle in the theater.


Jessica Hecht, Mark Ruffalo

Victor’s wife Esther (Jessica Hecht) joins him. She finds the apartment depressing, but feels it necessary to goose her husband both into getting the absolute best price from a furniture dealer on the way, and keeping the money, rather than splitting it with his estranged brother, Walter (Tony Shaloub), a well heeled doctor. This is a housewife suffering from empty nest syndrome, one who didn’t bargain for as small and mediocre life as she feels she’s enduring. “Everything was always temporary with us. You should’ve gotten out during the war.” Victor had planned to be a scientist.

In what seems the to-date highlight of his career, Danny DeVito veritably inhabits Solomon, the 90 year-old, semi-retired furniture dealer whose name Victor got from the phone book. Esther is suspicious. “I’m registered, I’m licensed, I’m even vaccinated,” he retorts with good humor as the men bid her goodbye.

Solomon is a gregarious salesman. Everything elicits a story, an explanation, a defense, an excuse. He talks about relative value, unpopular eras, oversized scale of gracious pieces, their aura of permanence. “A man gets married, sits at this table; he knows he’s gotta stay married.” Victor has trouble pinning the agent down to an offer. The arrangement is all or nothing. Itemization implies otherwise. Still, he has a soft spot for the old man and can’t help but being amused by knowledgeable spin, not to mention tidbits about Solomon’s own colorful life.

mark and danny

Mark Ruffalo, Danny DiVito

At one point, the dealer takes a hard boiled egg out of his briefcase and eats it. It’s sheer vaudeville. He answers Victor slightly spitting egg, chokes a bit, and swigs from a silver flask, never breaking stride. Ruffalo looks at DiVito with deep appreciation. It brings to mind The Carol Burnett Show, whose production team actually allowed the company to crack each other up on camera. Here, things are kept in appropriate check, though laughter feels imminent. Both actors are marvelous.

Just as cash is changing hands, Walter unexpectedly arrives suspending the sale. Victor practically backs away. He can’t let go of the difficult, deeply resented past in which Walter seems to have shaped his brother’s future. Facts and motivation conflict. Denial spurts like errant geysers, precursor to eruption.

The Price is heady and dense. Playwright Arthur Miller explores the complex, fallible nature of his beautifully drawn characters (humanity) and long term consequences of decisions that seemed axiomatic when made. Though not without humor, the drama seriously addresses one’s relationship with one’s self, others subject to fallout. A context that might easily evoke judgment abstains.


Danny DiVito, Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shaloub

The whiz bang company unfailingly balance one another. Tony Shaloub (Walter) is so forceful and charismatic when quick-changing tacks, uncertainty about his intentions never abates. Jessica Hecht’s portrayal of Esther makes the backbone of her marriage believable even after play-long discontent, prodding, and even threats.

Mark Ruffalo’s naturalistic performance is immensely nuanced. Small gestures and expressions speak volumes. The actor fully occupies his character even in silence. We’re made to feel Victor’s wrenching internal battle which encompasses not only the pivotal earlier decision, but taking a stand that must powerfully affect life going forward. That which Ruffalo holds in is as palpably potent as his outbursts.

Danny DiVito’s Solomon captivates. Walking a fine line between amusing attributes and credibility, DiVito never grows too broad. Miller gives us a familiar type, but the actor brings him to quirky and specific life. Comic timing is impeccable.

Director Terry Kinney does a masterful job in regulating the ebb and flow of emotion. Everyone has his/her own reaction timing. Small business and use of the staging area seem character instinctive. Kinney’s opening is inspired. Periodic use of room elements – visualize Danny DiVito stuck holding an oar five times his height – is wry, yet never inappropriate.

Derek McLane’s excellent set pairs adjacent water towers and an expanse of backdrop sky with the terrifically appointed room.

This is an extremely satisfying production of a superb play.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shaloub

Roundabout Theatre Company presents
Arthur Miller’s The Price
Directed by Terry Kinney
American Airlines Theater
227 West 42nd Street

The Babylon Line – Spelunking for Stories


What happens when denizens of an ordinary, middle class, 1967 community look deeper into lives they think of as humdrum to discover they have quite a bit to say?

Aaron Port (Josh Radnor), is a 38 year-old “writer,” who once had a story published. “It’s impossible to find a first class subject if you haven’t had a war,” is an example of flimsy excuses. Hard up, he begrudgingly takes a low paying, once a week job, teaching Creative Writing to an adult education class in Levittown, Long Island. This necessitates a reverse commute from Greenwich Village and is responsible for half a double entendre title. Aaron morphs back and forth from narrator (spotlight, cast freezes) to participant.

The mostly entertaining show, which features a number of well drawn, idiosyncratic characters as well as playwright Richard Greenberg’s signature wit, sympathy, and splendid use of language, is riddled with incongruities. We’re oddly never told what else Aaron does to support himself. Why he informs us at the top of the piece that he’s looking back from 2015 is utter mystery. His reflective “so much turned out badly” is misleading; in fact, it didn’t. Additionally, the piece seems to end two or three times, making the experience bottom heavy and overlong.

 Photo: Jeremy Daniel

 Josh Radnor, Elisabeth Reaser

Three friends from the “sisterhood” (Jewish Temple wives) are delighted to find each other in class. Frieda Cohen (Randy Graff,  thoroughly believable through bright and dark) is a garrulous woman with strong opinions, civic reputation – “You may have seen my house… with a garden featured in Newsday…” – and a guilty secret. Anna Kantor (Maddie Corman), who would’ve preferred flower arranging, is pushed to defend her all important status quo. Midge Braverman (Julie Halson with pitch perfect tone), disappointed that French cooking was full, seems to be there as Frieda’s Sancho Panza. Joan Dellamond (Elizabeth Reaser), is articulate, literate, recently agoraphobic, and class provocateur. She doesn’t belong.

Men include sweetly autistic Marc Adams (Michael Oberholtzer), a perhaps 30 year-old who lives with his mother and boasts work on a magnum opus whose length changes at every telling, and Jack Hassenpflug (the reliably fine Frank Wood), a blue collar Korean War veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress.

As Aaron refuses to assign topics and no one thinks they have anything sufficiently original to share, getting students to write is like pulling teeth. The housewives would rather discuss whether Truman Capote is gay or secretly bedding the women he squires around. Jack starts the ball rolling just “to get it down.” Midge comes in with an essay about the meditation (not her word) of lawn mowing. Anna “describes” a family vacation. Authors are inadvertently illuminated, reactions telling.

It’s Joan who shakes up both the class and its instructor. Not only are her stories well written and extremely startling, but eschewing small talk, she lingers, relating intimate specifics of her life, pressing for personal details from Aaron. It’s clear she’s making herself available. Though one infers he’s attracted, we never see a struggle not to betray a barely referred-to wife.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Frank Wood, Randy Graff

Over the term, we learn more about each student and a great deal about Joan. One of several endings includes a what-happened-after section which is both credible and wonderfully imaginative. Everybody has stories if one goes spelunking.

Josh Radnor (Aaron) makes an excellent narrator, but an insubstantial participant. As the story progresses, despite set-up to the contrary, the character turns out to be something of a nebbish. The actor seems to go blank on too many potentially decisive occasions. This could easily be due to direction or writing.

Elizabeth Reaser is a compelling, multi-layered Joan, adding physical embodiment to choices that come from a solid core. Restrained seduction is especially well played.

Director Terry Kinney keeps the piece moving, creating attractive onstage pictures. There is, however, a missed opportunity for small idiosyncrasies.

The schoolroom set by Richard Hoover is period appropriate and well dressed. Love the old photos of presidents. Peripheral projections of outside locale (Darrel Maloney) add to atmosphere, especially when they depict snow in conjunction with stage weather.

David Weiner’s lighting is skilled. Before the play begins, we can see ourselves reflected in a wall of windows. After, the designer manages to control our view. When Aaron meets a more successful peer at the station, we effectively see only the two men and train lights moving left to right in the glass.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel
Opening: Frank Wood, Maddie Corman, Julie Halston, Randy Graff, Josh Radnor

The Babylon Line by Richard Greenberg
Directed by Terry Kinney
Lincoln Center Theater at The Mitzi E. Newhouse
150 West 65th Street
Through January 22, 2017