Friday, October 05, 2012

Other People's Money

JUST A QUICK COMMENT on the play seen last night, Other People's Money, a comic oleo, I think you could call it, on a very topical subject, by Jerry Sterner, about whom I know only what Wikipedia tells me, which is little beyond the epitaph on his headstone: "Finally, a plot."

The play is equally sardonic. You may know it from its 1991 film version, which starred Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck, and Piper Laurie — strange, how long ago that all seems now! I haven't seen the film, but last night's performance makes me curious to.

Not that the production we saw was deficient, crying out for Hollywood's more lavish resources. This was community theater, though one member of the cast is Equity; but the casting was good, the acting persuasive, the production resourceful given the small house and crowded stage facility.

The play's about a villainous New York corporate raider who's after a midsized Rhode Island factory, publicly held but tightly controlled by the family that founded it many years before. The company's small-town owner, whose father had founded the factory, yields to his second wife's pleas to let her daughter, at the beginning of her law career — his stepdaughter — to try to prevent the takeover.

Further complications involve the family dynamics and various interferences by employees, but the main action is in the emerging duel between the smart and idealistic young lawyer, Kate, and the villain, Lawrence Garfinkle. (Interestingly, his surname was changed in the film to "Garfield.") They are played here by Laura Lowry and Keith Baker, and I thought both were superb.

We went to the play at the suggestion of a couple of friends, with whom we often see theater; they'd heard this was very funny, and after the previous night's presidential debate a funny play was in order. Well, of course, corporate raiders are very much in play these days, and it was perhaps too bad that the one in this production is as funny, as darkly attractive, as he is. Oily, rancid, yes; you can almost see him twisting a Simon Legree mustache as he eyes the sweet young daughter. But his frankness, as he discusses the nasty business he goes about, is refreshing, particularly after the less "transparent" explanations Mr. Romney gave the other night.

Other People's Money, a comedy by Jerry Sterner. With Larry Williams, John Craven, Joan Hawley, Keith Baker, and Laura Lowry, directed by Elizabeth Craven. Main Stage West, Sebastopol, through October 6.

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