Solid Revival of “Other People’s Money” at Long Wharf
By Tom Holehan
It may help that Mr. Trump is now the President-Elect, but the revival of Jerry Sterner’s 1989 corporate takeover comedy, “Other People’s Money”, which I feared may have approached dated status by now, suddenly seems more relevant than ever. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but for theatre fans this solid revival, currently on the boards at the Long Wharf Theatre, is pretty good news.
Taking place mostly at a fading Rhode Island Wire and Cable factory, “Other People’s Money” is set in 1989 with its shoebox-size cell phones and clunky computers in full view. It concerns one Laurence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfinkle (Jordan Lage), a Wall Street shark whose specialty is buying up the stock of companies that are slowly going downhill. The company in question is run by old-school boss Jorgenson (Edward James Hyland, perfect) who prides himself on knowing all his employees’ names and still believes in a firm handshake, the work ethic and traditional values. Coles (Steve Routman), who manages the company and is ready to take over once Jorgenson decides to retire, smells a rat almost immediately upon meeting Garfinkle, but is held back by the old man who refuses to face reality and keep up with the times.
When Larry starts his moves, it isn’t long before he faces off with Kate (Liv Rooth), an ambitious attorney and the daughter of Jorgenson’s long-time secretary and companion, Bea (Karen Ziemba). The best parts of “Other’s People Money” are the head-to-head battles between Kate and Larry and, with smartly written roles to play, both of these formidable actors are up to the task. It must be noted, however, that Mr. Lage in no way resembles the Garfinkle that the playwright has written. With Lage’s polished looks and trim physique, many of the jokes at Larry’s expense don’t really work, but so good is Lage, it’s only a temporary distraction.
Rooth and Lage enjoy the juiciest roles here, but Mr. Hyland is also quite wonderful as Jorgenson, the play’s crucial moral center. Warmly paternal with a subversive twinkle in his eyes, Hyland is completely believable as a business dinosaur who finds out too late that his days are numbered. Broadway musical veteran Karen Ziemba, in a change-of-pace role as his frumpy secretary and lover, is equally good with less to play. The entire cast, with the exception of a somewhat too milquetoast Mr. Routman, manage to spin this bittersweet tale of contemporary economics with verve and purpose under the taut direction of Marc Bruni. The play is far from a modern classic, but still remains a timely bulletin from the trenches of American business.
“Other People’s Money” continues at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through December 18. For further information call the theatre box office at: 203.787.4282 or visit: www.longwharf.org
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.