Nearly three decades may have passed since Other People’s Money first introduced off-Broadway audiences to corporate takeover whiz Larry The Liquidator, but Jerry Sterner’s bitingly comedic look at our country’s increasingly affluent 1% proves as relevant as ever as evidenced by its terrifically entertaining (though sadly just-closed) InterACT Theatre Company revival.
The corporation Lawrence Garfinkle (Rob Shapiro) now has his heart set on (that is if he even has a heart) could not be riper for the raiding.
New England Wire And Cable may be the third largest in the land, but the development of fiber-optics and other new technologies have rendered its products nearly obsolete, a fact its 68-year-old chairman Andrew Joregenson (Kent Menault) refuses to recognize.
Neither does Andrew acknowledge the risk posed by Larry’s interest in his company despite the warnings of his second-in-command, company president William Coles (Peter McDonald).
With NEW&C’s four million shares of outstanding stock currently selling at forty cents on the dollar, Larry’s purchase of a hundred ninety-six thousand (the maximum he can buy without having to file with the SEC) is only salvo number one in an attack Andrew is too naïve to see coming.
Still, following the urgings of his longtime assistant/lover Bea Sullivan (D.J. Harner), Andrew agrees to let Bea’s Wall Street attorney daughter Kate (Alexandra Wright) meet with Larry, a first encounter that has the Liquidator dismissing Kate’s efforts to negotiate while letting her know what he wants to talk about, i.e. “your legs, your ass, your tits.” (Yeah, that’s the kind of guy Larry is.)
It soon becomes clear, however, that in the bold and sexy Kate, the male chauvinist pig to end all male chauvinist pigs may have met his match, one made in high-finance heaven if only Larry can manage to snag not just New England Wire And Cable but Kate as well.
Despite its nearly thirty years of age, Other People’s Money has not lost an iota of its relevance, not with today’s rich getting richer than ever, just one reason its Pico Playhouse revival proves so gripping.
Another is Sterner’s far from simplistic script, one that keeps audience sympathies in constant state of flux. Larry may well be the most self-serving of corporate sharks, but Andrew’s refusal to accept reality proves equally vexing. Andrew may want what’s best for his employees, but he turns a blind eye to William’s entirely justified wish for a written guarantee of succession upon his retirement two years from now. Bea may be the most faithful of assistants, but until their spouses’ deaths, she was also his adulterous lover, accent on adulterous. And Kate, despite being in Andrew’s corner, can’t help finding herself attracted to a man who awakens in her both desire and her own sharklike urges.
Under Oliver Muirhead’s incisive direction, performances on the Pico Playhouse stage could not be finer beginning with Shapiro’s spectacularly sleazy, slimy, seductive Larry. Casting a Ray Liotta type in a role written for an actor of John Goodman/George Wendt proportions proves an inspired directorial choice, making it far easier than scripted for us to buy into the sexual sparks ignited between Larry and Kate, the latter brought to fiery life by an absolutely sensational Wright.
Menault’s quietly dignified Andrew is matched by Harner’s heartbreakingly loyal, deeply felt Bea. McDonald does terrific work too as the increasingly desperate William despite appearing too close in age to Andrew for us to buy that the 40something-as-written heir apparent has decades of chairmanship ahead of him.
Gary Lee Reed’s stark black semi-abstract set works particularly well for a play whose characters do quite a bit of fourth-wall-breaking. Carole Doehring’s lighting, Chip Bolcik’s sound, and uncredited costumes complete a simple but effective production design.
Other People’s Money is produced by Daniel James Clark. Sandee Terzis is stage manager.
Though it is now too late for L.A. audiences to fall under Other People’s Money’s provocative spell, those who caught Jerry Sterner’s still potent gem during its two-month run can count themselves fortunate indeed. (If only Larry’s victims had been so lucky.)
Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
December 18, 2016
Photos: Ed Krieger