Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Other People's Money
Long Wharf Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule


Liv Rooth
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Long Wharf Theatre's rendition of the 1986 play Other People's Money is effective and obviously topical; for better or worse, it seems all too familiar and predictable. Jerry Sterner's script draws an immediate bead upon a Rhode Island based company and the driving and ambitious effort Lawrence Garfinkle (Jordan Lage) will execute as he commandeers a takeover. He is bombastic and his "victims," those who work for New England Wire and Cable, are never seen. The show continues in New Haven through December 18th.

Watching for a couple of hours, it's difficult not to think about feature films such as Wall Street and The Big Short or even television's "Billions." The moment Garfinkle, also known as "Larry the Liquidator" appears, he dominates. The play is introduced, through narration, by Coles (Steve Routman), manager of New England Wire, who is caught between allegiance to workers and a quest to gain some fiscal security for himself. While Garfinkle pretty much boasts of his triumphs, the insecure Coles is juxtaposed to his boss Jorgensen (Edward James Hyland). Having been at the helm of the factory and developed a closeness for and with daily laborers, Jorgensen will forever remain loyal. Garfinkle, the capitalistic pragmatist, thinks he will sway stockholders with the notion that more money is in the offing if the place is shut down and more lucrative ventures explored. He will lay off reams of people, get rid of equipment, and then find a way to make quite a bit of cash—which will primarily be his. He seems to feel he's doing everyone a huge favor.

Bea (Karen Ziemba) has assisted Jorgenson for many years. Her daughter Kate (Liv Rooth) is a young, blonde, sexy attorney. She will represent Jorgenson and is unafraid to go toe-to-toe with Garfinkle. That very fit shark-like man wants her, too, and he unabashedly and bluntly goes after her. She's a more than spirited match—and, at one point, gets him to place a hand over his crotch. Garfinkle's scores, if he succeeds, will be numerous. He will garner a small fortune if he has his way with New England Wire and Cable. He will continue to eat donuts and hopes to share them with Kate. Truly toxic, Garfinkle personifies the anti-humanist while Jorgenson plays the caring, decent, fatherly leader.

Marc Bruni directs the show, pushing it forward with jolts of energy. He and sound designer Brian Ronan punctuate the proceedings with staccato blasts. Lee Savage, the set designer, has created brick walls which represent the 70-something years of the company's existence, plus wooden desks, chairs, table and flooring. When the production jumps to Garfinkle's New York City office, the decor shifts to swanky and bright.

It is worth noting that author Sterner (composing scripts in his spare time) took a job selling subway tokens as a young man, then became a realtor, next invested in some stocks—and finally, in earnest, began to write plays. His life, evidently, informed Other People's Money.

Jordan Lage's Garfinkle is the takeover. Brashly self-centered, he claims to be doing everyone a favor. He lives and leaves a distinct impression that if he has his donuts, cash and women, he might even be satisfied. Liv Rooth cannot be denied. She plays her role with confidence and audacity, too. Garfinkle's eyes, not surprisingly, feast upon her. Edward James Hyland is a wise fit for Jorgenson.

At times, Steve Routman is a bit stiff as Coles; then again, the character has his own eyes on the fiscal ledger and his goal is survival. Karen Ziemba, taking the smallish role of Bea, is, as ever, quite fine.

It is impossible to observe Other People's Money without immediately flashing to the current American political scene and its possible ramifications in months to come. For some, sitting in on this production will serve as a timely if unsettling reminder.

Other People's Money continues at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut through December 18th, 2016,. For tickets, call (203) 787-4282 or visit long wharf.org.


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