Other People's Money at Shattered Globe Theatre: Theater review
A small New England company tries to fight off a ruthless corporate raider, who takes a liking to his target's feisty lawyer in Jerry Sterner's 1989 comedy.
During the extravagant 1980s, a new species of businessman rose to prominence: the bloodthirsty Wall Street shark, whose only goal is making money no matter the cost to other human lives. One of the strategies of these sharks is finding companies that are worth more dead than alive, taking over by buying loads of stock, and dismantling the businesses to sell the parts for a profit. The fact that all those workers will be left jobless doesn’t matter to this vicious breed of investor, and New England Wire & Cable finds itself in dangerous waters in Jerry Sterner’s 1989 financial drama/romantic comedy hybrid.
Adapted into a 1991 film starring Danny DeVito, Penelope Ann Miller and Gregory Peck in his last leading role, Other People’s Money is a very Hollywood-friendly script. It addresses complex economic issues with a strong human-interest angle, and even folds in a quippy courtship between two passionate rivals. Dennis Zacek’s production juggles all these various elements with ease, featuring a cast that makes stock-market concepts accessible to the investment-impaired by surrounding the financial and legal content with riveting character work.
Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfinkle (Ben Werling) has his sights on New England Wire & Cable, but the company’s largely ignorant management team has a secret weapon in assistant Bea’s (Linda Reiter) hotshot lawyer daughter Kate (Abbey Smith). She’s a strong, confident woman when it comes to taking down Wall Street predators, but Kate’s resolve crumbles when she’s around her mother and charismatic asshole Lawrence. Smith tries her best to make these character shifts as natural as possible, and succeeds in justifying Kate’s weak will around her mother, but the Kate and Larry relationship is too large of a hurdle to clear completely. The script doesn’t give solid reasoning for Kate to be attracted to a man who epitomizes everything she hates; her inexplicable lust for a man who objectifies and degrades her diminishes the character.
Exquisitely performed by a cast of Shattered Globe ensemble members and one artistic associate, Zacek’s production moves at a quick but comfortable pace. Doug McDade plays business owner Jorgie with a vigor that's furiously trying to hide his fear of an inevitable takeover, but his vulnerability comes through in his scenes with Bea. His brash attitude is a stark contrast to Werlin’s Lawrence, who has a calm, condescending confidence that makes his already physically imposing presence even bigger. This is a man on a steady diet of Dunkin’ Donuts and small businesses, and there’s a sense that he’s always a few steps ahead of his prey.
The cast is rounded out by Joe Wiens as the mousy but wise Bill, bringing the perfect amount of regretful melancholy to a character who's working in the best interest of himself and his family but, unlike Lawrence, is aware of how his actions affect others. The remarkably tight ensemble fills out the relationships to compensate for the script’s weaknesses, but the rom-com elements ultimately drag down a captivating economic conflict.