Shattered Globe Theatre’s “Other People’s Money” A Solid Return On Investment
I think it’s sort of cliché to open a theatre review by suggesting a
production is “as relevant as ever,” since if a script is any good, it should always maintain some sort of relevance to the human condition in general. If we cannot connect with a story anymore, we will likely stop telling it.
However, with the current political discourse, the recent recession and the bank bailouts, a play about corporate greed is indeed still very relevant. Even though Shattered Globe does not change the date for its recent rendition of Jerry Sterner’s “Other People’s Money,” the situation is so familiar that were it not for the Macintosh computer sitting on a desk in the back of the set, the audience would have little clue that the play is set in 1989 and not 2013.
“Other People’s Money” delivers all the common talking points on the free market and capitalism – the greedy robber baron who doesn’t need money, but wants it; the loyal owner of a struggling American manufacturing company who cares about workers more than dollars, and plenty of jokes about what a better place this world would be without lawyers.
While not an entirely unique character in a common story, Larry “The
Liquidator” Garfinkle is somewhat more likeable, even if no less disgusting, than any other big, bad businessman archetype. And by likeable I suppose I mean funny, crude, and devilish – a guilty pleasure. He’s not an antihero, no one is rooting for him and he is clearly the bad guy; but evil characters are always more fun when they have a suit and smile instead of horns and pitchfork.
Ben Werling doesn’t miss a beat when bringing Larry to the the Theater Wit stage and even when he’s not in scene he thankfully hangs out on stage just out of the lights and chimes in with a smart-ass remark whenever he can.
When Larry walks into New England Wire and Cable to snatch it up and liquidate it from it’s longtime CEO Andrew Jorganson (Doug McDade), it looks like he should have no problem prying the trusting old man from all his shares in a short time. However, upon finding out what Larry is really up to, Jorganson decides to fight and vows to do so with out destroying the company in the process. Most of the options his distant, sort-of-step-daughter and lawyer gives him to save the company are really just a means of making it so undesirable that Larry will walk away and cut his losses.
Under the direction of Dennis Zacek, the whole cast does well when the battle begins as both sides try to use lawyers, laws and morals to keep a company profitable – one by restructuring (destroying) it and the other by rebuilding it.
The play can get a little heavy on Wall Street jargon from time to time, but it’s never difficult to follow and actually educational.
The set design is excellent in that allows that characters in different places to speak to the audience at the same time while also showing the drastic difference between the office of a wall street tycoon and a blue collar factory owner. While a little long-winded at times, the speeches to the shareholders near the end do get one wondering – and worrying – about the future of business and manufacturing in the United States. There is no question that making money by tearing companies down seems extremely unsustainable. Even if it gets some rich on paper, it bankrupts the spirit and work ethic that made the nation great.
New England Wire and Cable’s business manager William Coles (Joseph Wiens) might be the best example of how we all really feel: we believe we will always take the moral high road, but when our own futures and money are at stake we think about ourselves and our families, not 1,200 factory workers we have never met.
Regardless of your opinion on politics and capitalism, Larry will certainly have you chuckling and “Other People’s Money” will certainly get you thinking – maybe about your own money and who’s after it.
“Other People’s Money” runs through October 19 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Curtain times are 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $12-$30 and available in person at the Theatre Wit box office, at www.theaterwit.org, or by calling (773) 975-8150. For calender information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com.