One of the top movie quotes of all time is “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” from the 1987 film Wall Street (#57 on the American Film Institute list of 100 Greatest). That catch phrase sums up the basis for the 1986 play, Other People’s Money, which is receiving a spirited, captivating production at Long Wharf, through December 18th.
The mid-1980’s was a time when the press was full of stories detailing Wall Street mega-mergers, hostile takeovers and business excesses. The battle between ruthless, capitalistic new wavers and old-lined, traditional companies was at its height. Playwright Jerry Sterner has taken this notion and created a grippingly charged tale that seems ripped from the headlines thirty years ago but, sadly, is still relevant today. Yet Sterner has crafted a show that is not as black and white as one would believe. The lines are more gray when it comes to the intentions and desires of investors and stock holders verses the wishes of management. The author has also taken the language of business and corporate takeovers and translated the vocabulary and terminology into easily understandable language for a widespread audience.
The show pits corporate takeover king Larry “The Liquidator” Garfinkle (Jordan Lage) against the established New England Wire & Cable Company. Garfinkle wants the firm, led by the unpretentious, laid back owner Andrew Jorgenson (Edward James Hyland) and President Bill Coles (Steve Routman) to acquiesce to his demands to seize control of the company. Jorgenson, comforted and fortified by his long time assistant and beloved, Bea (Karen Ziemba), refuse Garfinkle’s advances. Instead, the trio convinces Bea’s daughter Kate (Liv Rooth), a high-powered New York lawyer, to help parry his advances. There are tense meetings among Garfinkle and the other protagonists, with the most heated, yet playful exchanges, between Kate and the Wall Streeter. In the end, alliances shift leading up to a surprising ending.
The acting troupe is dynamic and full of intensity and passion, which makes the production such a treat to watch. Jordan Lage’s Garfinkle is the key to the show. The actor gives a richly hued performance as the pompous, vainglorious and totally self-serving Wall Streeter. He is repulsive, yet also exudes a sexual aura. This makes, for example, his one-on-one verbal confrontations with Ms. Rooth’s Kate so provocative and enthralling. Edward James Hyland layers Jorgenson with down-to-earth charm and a steely reserve. Liv Rooth, as Kate, is coolly self-confident in her attempt to save the firm from elimination. She is more then a match for her nemesis in the production. Steve Routman gives a fine Machiavellian tint to the shrewd, calculating character Bill Coles. Karen Ziemba, as Bea, is fine in a role that doesn’t have the impact or flourish of her fellow cast members.
Director Marc Bruni keeps the action taut and engrossing, adroitly building the dramatic tension up to the startling denouncement. Each character comes across as believable and true to their convictions. He deftly integrates the action on stage with short bursts of narration and opinionated polemics from Garfinkle who, at times, prowls around the perimeter of the stage like a predator surveying his injured quarry.
Other People’s Money, a well-orchestrated production that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Playing through December 18th.