‘The Price’ at Chapel Street is a family affair on and offstage
When Ray Barto was faced with the last minute recasting of a role in Chapel Street Players’ “The Price” – a play in which two brothers reunite to sell their parents’ estate – he didn’t look far.
He called his brother.
“I knew Bob was a quick study,” said Barto, director of “The Price” and younger brother to actor Bob Barto. “So I said, ‘Can you do this?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll do it.’”
“The Price” opens with a reception at 7:30 p.m. and performance at 8 p.m. tonight, and will run for six performances at 27 N. Chapel St. through Feb. 17.
Arthur Miller wrote the play, which opened on Broadway in 1968 and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Play that year. It recently returned to Broadway in 2017, with Mark Ruffalo and Danny DeVito in two of the play’s four roles.
Growing up, Barto said he and his brother were “drawn to theater” and remembers the two performing with Holy Angels’ Angel Players as teenagers. Both brothers studied theater in college and, as adults, continued to look for artistic opportunities.
Barto first encountered “The Price” in the ‘70s, when it was required reading in one of his college courses. It stayed with him, and he pitched performing the play this season at Chapel Street. While audience members may be more familiar with some of Miller’s other works, like “Death of a Salesman” or “The Crucible,” Barto said “The Price” is both something different and very familiar.
“This is something that everybody’s gonna go through at some point,” Barto said. “Getting rid of your parent’s stuff, getting rid of your stuff.”
Set in a New York City brownstone, “The Price” has New York cop Victor Franz return to his childhood home to sell the remainder of his parents’ estate. Victor gave up going to college to support his family and is now confronted with the past as he, his wife, his estranged brother and a sharp-witted furniture dealer (that’s the role Bob Barto plays), sort through the family’s history.
The premise of the show – going through all that stuff – presented Barto with a unique problem when it came to creating the setting. A harp is often referenced in dialogue and is central to the plot. It was a wedding gift to Victor’s parents, and his mother had a talent for music.
It’s certainly one of the more challenging set pieces Barto has been tasked with finding. So he got in touch with The Brandywine Harp Orchestra. Harpist Janet Witman founded the ensemble in 2000. Today, the group has a dozen harpers and pulls talent from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Mar yland.
“I was not familiar with them at all. It was totally a shot in the dark. I was actually thinking of building a harp,” said Barto, adding he quickly discovered online that making a harp would cost more than his budget would allow.
The ensemble is now loaning the theater a harp for the stage and will also provide music for the 8 p.m. performances tonight and Feb. 16. Harpists may perform other dates, depending on availability, Barto added.
Tickets for “The Price” cost between $5 and $18. For more information, visit http:// chapelstreetplayers.org/ or call (302) 3682248.
Dan Tucker and Curt King appear in “The Price” by Arthur Miller at Chapel Street Players.