In an age of vulture capitalism, “Other People’s Money” stings like it was 1989.
Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfinkle is a ruthless corporate raider with his eye on New England Wire & Cable. The struggling company is run by the folksy Andrew “Jorgy” Jorgenson. The firm provides most of the jobs for its small New England town.
Thus ignites a corporate war in which no one wins.
|If you go
WHAT: “Other People’s Money”
WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through July 1.
WHERE: Santa Fe Playhouse, 142 E. DeVargas St. COST: $25 opening night with the directors, food, drink and music. $20 general; $10 seniors, students and teachers.
CONTACT: 988-4262; firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening at the Santa Fe Playhouse tonight, the play stars a cast of veteran actors directed by comedy writer Ron Bloomberg (“All in the Family,” “Three’s Company,” “Home Improvement”) and Santa Fe actor Barry Hazen. Hazen directed the playhouse production of “Lend Me a Tenor” in 2006.
Hazen, who has worked for the playhouse, Theater Grottesco and Santa Fe Performing Arts, says he has loved the piece since he saw it on Broadway in 1989.
“I was very taken by how the playwright was able to make something so technical – stocks and bonds — very simple and turn it into a black comedy,” he said.
The New York version starred Jeff Conaway and Mercedes Ruehl. Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck starred in the Norman Jewison-directed 1991 movie.
“I always kept this play under the radar screen,” Hazen added. “I grew up in that part of the world. (Sterner) was able to create a classic anti-hero in Garfinkle. He’s a cad. He’s so distasteful, but when he walks on, you just can’t look away. He has no qualms about putting people out of work as long as he makes money for his stockholders.”
You can never be sure whom to root for. Should the needs of factory workers play a role in stockholders’ decisions?
TV veteran Bloomberg has known about the play for years. A Los Angeles comedy writer for 25 years, this is his first stab at directing a play that he didn’t write. The black comedy seems ripped from the news that has bombarded us all since the economic collapse.
“This is the only play I read once a year religiously because I think the dialogue is so smart,” Bloomberg said.
“Just turn on your TV or look at a paper,” he continued. “Nothing’s changed. This latest thing with Jamie Dimon and J.P. Morgan couldn’t be better for us.”
In May, Morgan CEO Dimon announced a $2 billion trading loss due to an untimely bet on credit derivatives. The announcement rattled investor confidence both in the largest bank in the country and in Wall Street’s ability to fight regulatory changes in the wake of the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve is reportedly examining the scope of the growing losses.
“These guys are real prototypes of what Garfinkle is,” Hazen said. “I think they’ve taken Garfinkle to another level.
“Jorgenson gets left behind,” he continued. “He doesn’t realize the threat that Garfinkle presents to him until it’s too late. The funny part is watching this unfold.”
The hostile takeover attempt leads to conflicting loyalties and betrayals that fracture a family.
Jennifer Graves plays Bea, Jorgy’s trusted assistant who is in love with her boss.
“Bea is loyal and true-blue,” said Graves, whose resume includes roles in “All My Children” and regional Shakespeare theater, as well as a small Off-Broadway company called The Undercroft Players.
Bea’s daughter Kate is the sharp attorney who tries to help her mother and the desperate Jorgy save the company.
The entanglements peak when Garfinkle falls for Kate, who rejects him. Yet she is attracted to his unflinchingly bold nature.
“Unfortunately, there’s a little bit of friction between me and my daughter,” Graves said. That friction dates to the married Bea’s ongoing relationship with Jorgy.
“Her daughter has a lot of resentment about what’s going on,” she added. “She’s afraid her daughter is going down the slippery slope of moral ambiguity.”
Debrianna Mansini, (“Breaking Bad,” “In Plain Sight,” “Crazy Heart”) who plays Kate, says her character is moral but ultimately pragmatic.
“I feel like the road has been paved for her by her mother, who has never been quite honest with her,” Mansini said. “When (Jorgy’s) wife died, (the mother) almost moved in with him. Everybody in town knew” about the affair.
Kate is trying to balance pleasing her mother with her dreams of success, an impossible task.
“She doesn’t like Jorgy,” Mansini said. “She loved her Dad. He didn’t get squat for being honorable.
“Her mother expects things of her and she doesn’t like it,” she added. “She thinks her mother never really loved her for who she is.”
Kate longs to partner with a winner; she likes nice things. She switches sides in the end.
Trusted company executive Bill Coles, fearful that the takeover will leave him penniless, offers to let Garfinkle vote his shares in the company in exchange for a golden parachute. Coles also serves as the play’s narrator.
“He’s a good guy,” said Jason Adams, who plays Coles as a man caught between loyalty and self-preservation. “He has been the backbone of his company for several decades. He’s been promised the company when Mr. Jorgenson retires. Being a husband and a father of three, he has a lot to lose. There’s a point where he panics as he sees that all attempts at saving the company have failed.”
The pivotal role belongs to Garfinkle, played by David McConnell. Garfinkle is a voracious shark who sees himself as a modern-day Robin Hood. He steals from the rich and gives to the middle class — well, the upper middle class.
McConnell, who was born in Los Alamos and spent 22 years on the New York stage, wears the “Falstaff” fat suit from the Santa Fe Opera.
“He’s a left-handed Jewish boy from the Bronx who’s morbidly obese,” McConnell said, “and he’s a Wall Street takeover artist. Part of the fun and the joy of it is, at first you think he’s a monster. But it turns out he’s actually right.”
Garfinkle’s love for money surpasses an addict’s lust for drugs, McConnell said.
“He’s doing deals where he’s finding companies worth more dead than alive,” he explained. “He says, at one point, the reason he loves money so much is it offers him unconditional acceptance.”
“Garfinkle is really funny,” Bloomberg added. “- street smart, says what’s on his mind, no filters. (It’s) the juxtaposition of him up against Jorgenson, who’s this very straight, good guy.”
“It’s not a simple play,” Bloomberg continued. “It’s an intricate play. There’s a flood of emotion that resonates through it. Fortunately, we have a very accomplished cast. There’s a small pool of actors here who could be working in L.A. or New York or London — they’re that good.”