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Other Peoples Money another winner for Commonweal

Fri, Jun 20th, 2003
Posted in Features

Commonweal Theater launched another summertime winner on June 13 with Other Peoples Money, written by Jerry Sterner who was once successful in real estate until he quit to pursue his real love: writing.

Some of us may be familiar with the movie version of Sterners play. Despite the fact that the movie starred the inimitable Gregory Peck, the Commonweals production proves that this drama is better suited to live theater than it was to the subtleties of the big screen.

Theres nothing subtle about Larry "the Liquidator" Garfinkle, a 1980's junk bond king, played by Commonweal Core Artist, Hal Cropp. Larry makes a living using other peoples money, and hes set his greedy eyes on the New England Wire and Cable Company, a small, faltering company that has stayed alive the old-fashioned way: through honesty, integrity, and lack of debt. At the helm is the aging Andrew Jorgenson, played by David Hennessey. "Jorgy"quotes Harry Truman and might have been considered a man of honor during his day, but to the young business sharks of America in the 1980's, devotees of "Reaganomics", Jorgys a stubborn fool, hopelessly outdated.

At Jorgys side is Bea Sullivan (Pat Sibley), his assistant, best friend, and, incidently, the woman whos loved him for thirty some years, even while both of their spouses were still living. "Sometimes life offers you few choices," she explains to her grown daughter Kate (Core Artist Carla Noack) whos not happy about her mothers affair of the heart.

Kate, an up-and-coming lawyer, complete with "power suits" and heels, still resents Jorgenson, but agrees to help his company do battle against "Larry the Liquidator." To defeat this king of Wall Street would look impressive on her resume, after all.

The final member of the cast, and the one "telling" the story, is the companys president, William Coles, played by Patrick Bailey, new to the Commonweal stage, but a veteran actor originally from Belfast. If the play is about younger generation versus older generation, Coles has a difficult position in the middle, caught between the reality of his era and the high moral standards of Jorgenson.

Surprisingly, the major source of tension in the plot is not what will become of New England Wire and Cable, but the dawning awareness that Larry and Kate are quite a bit alike, and might even be falling in love. Unless all their flirting is simply a game strategy for two people who love to win.

The set is creative, appropriate to the subject (lots of green) and, along with the 80's music pounding out between scenes, helps to set the mood. Sarah Aydlett and Michael J. Simons designed the set and lighting. Costumes by Janis Martin are authentic 1980's wear, but also help to subtly highlight the similarities between Kate and Larry, while contrasting them with the softer, older hues of Jorgy and Bea. Ryan Sherlock serves as stage manager.

Craig Johnson, who directed last years A Doll House, returned to direct the top-notch cast of Other Peoples Money, assisted by Resident Company Member Adrienne Krocheski. The play is billed as a "dark comedy", bitingly funny with enough sexuality and a sprinkling of four-letter-words to make one think twice about bringing any but the most mature of the elementary school set.

Its interesting to ponder that when this play was written during the "greed is good" period of the late 1980's, it was maybe intended to serve as a cautionary tale about what could happen if corporate America continued to gain power. To see it now in 2003 is a little depressing. With the recent spate of corporate scandals, it would seem that everything dark in this comedy has not only come true, but is accepted as part of our world. The play may not seem as "timely" as it was fifteen years ago, but its now almost an historical work that goes back to when our current state of affairs began.

For a chance to ponder greed, and for some good laughs, see Other Peoples Money through October 26.

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