BWW Reviews: OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY in New Haven
"Businessmen tell stories in numbers," explains Coles (Steve Routman), the president of the fictitious New England Wire and Cable Company in Jerry Sterner's 1986 play, Other People's Money. "Have you ever read an annual report? We are not good storytellers."
Other People's Money was great storytelling in 1989 when it was produced at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York and is even better in its production at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, as directed by Marc Bruni.
The play is about hostile takeovers that were prolific during the 1980s and the callous practices that have become the new normal of American business and politics. New England Wire and Cable Company is a financially sound but, by today's standards, dated business owned by Andrew Jorgensen (Edward James Hyland) and the perfect target for "Larry the Liquidator" Garfinkle (Jordan Lage). But Jorgensen believes his company can survive with old fashioned business values such as decency to its employees and to the community, values that simply don't exist for people such as Garfinkle or any real life corporate raider or CEO. It's all about the money. Lots of money.
Jorgensen's assistant and significant other, Bea Sullivan (Karen Ziemba) convinces her daughter, Kate Sullivan (Liv Rooth), to help save New England Wire and Cable from being taken over by Garfinkle. This is where the play goes from interesting to compelling. The initial sparks between the hardball characters Garfinkle and Kate, and shoot higher than ever with the dynamic chemistry between Rooth and Lage. Those roles just don't get better cast, and neither does the role of Bea. Ziemba is sweet and loyal to her nearest and dearest, but she is nearly torn apart by Kate's anger and resentment towards Jorgensen. There is a frugalness in the book about the relationships between Bea, Kate, and Jorgensen, but Ziemba seems to be able to figure it out and, keeping in character, is guarded about it. Ziemba is totally credible with her upbeat manner disguising her concerns. Hyland and Routman are well cast as the traditional CEO who would have company picnics for employees and his more progressive and realistic right-hand man. Lee Savage's set design cleverly contrasted the old factory with Garfinkle's chic office. Anita Yavich's costume designs were perfect for the cast, also contrasting the obviously expensive apparel for Kate and Garfinkle and the professional but unostentatious Jorgensen, Bea, and Coles. David Landers superb lighting captured the chiarioscuro of the set, suggesting the darkness, not just shadiness of Garfinkle's world. Claire Zoghb wow us once again with her brilliant graphics. The slanted and mixed typography on the cover of the program is terrific, but better still is the image of a man about to destroy a community just by stepping on it with his well-shod foot.
And now for some trivia that Connecticut residents might like. Some of the scenes in the movie were shot in Seymour Specialty and Wire in Seymour and other scenes were shot at the Gilbert and Bennett Mill in Georgetown. Alas, both the factory and mill have since closed.
Other People's Money is playing at the Long Wharf Theatre through December 18. You don't want to miss this play or this cast. The Long Wharf Theatre is located at 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. 203-787-4282, longwharf.org