Ivoryton Playhouse Cashes in on “Other People’s Money”
By Amy J. Barry
Watching Larry the Liquidator scheme to take over a small town company that still makes a physical product is both repulsive and fascinating in Jerry Sterner’s “Other People’s Money” directed by Maggie McGlone Jennings on the Ivoryton Playhouse stage.
The play, which was soon followed by a movie version starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck, was produced two decades ago during the height of Wall Street greed and we’re still reeling through the 2005 financial crises and the havoc reeked by its predators.
It’s a bit tiresome to watch a two-act, two-hour production about soulless people devoid of conscience who have hurt so many in their quest for the mighty dollar.
Yet there is a catharsis in hating Lawrence Garfinkle the paunchy, sleazy New York money -- and donut -- obsessed corporate raider played to perfection by Edward Kassar, the production’s king pin.
Likening himself to Robin Hood, he says, “I steal from the rich and give to the middle class -- well, the upper middle class.”
The other characters in the ensemble are interesting and less detestable and the plotline is for the most part engaging. The first act is drawn out, but picks up momentum after intermission.
In stark contrast to Garfinkle, with the stubborn righteousness and overblown ideals that the character demands, Gary Allan Poe plays the part of Andrew “Jorgy” Jorgenson, the about-to-retire owner of the antiquated Rhode Island-based New England Wire and Cable Company.
Denise Walker gives plenty of passion (at times over the top) to her role as Bea Sullivan, Jorgy’s devoted second wife and right-hand woman.
Dennis Fox could be more forthright as Bill Coles, the company’s president, who sells out to Garfinkle to protect his own interests in the flailing company and insure his kids’ college educations.
As Garfinkle artificially drives up the price of the shares of stock, Bea’s shark lawyer daughter Kate Sullivan, played by a spunky and cagey Elizabeth Donnelly, is brought onboard to circumvent a hostile takeover but she doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her stepfather, either -- and complicated family history is thrown into the mix.
Kate is as turned on by Garfinkle’s powerful presence as she is turned off by his foul-mouthed sexual overtures and sexism. The apparent age difference between the two actors makes Garfinkle’s creepy advances even creepier.
The company’s fate is in the hands of the stockholders at their 73rd annual meeting. The scene is a little overblown, with the impassioned opposing pleas of Jorgy and Garfinkle as they each take the soapbox.
But it also raises good questions about the kinds of tough choices we’re faced with in modern society and at what point one’s principles and making an honest living is subjugated to self-interests.
William Russell Stark’s set of the makeshift offices inside the factory building evokes the nostalgic fading away of an era and is complimented by Marcus Abbot’s lighting seeping through the dusty old windows. Kari Crowther captures the ’80s style -- or lack thereof -- in her period-correct costumes.
“Other People’s Money” is at Ivoryton Playhouse, l103 Main Street, Ivoryton, through May 5. Tickets are available by calling the box-office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing community weeklies and online Zip06.com and theday.com.