Today's headlines are chalk-full of Wall St. critiques, failing businesses, Ponzi schemes and corporate raiders headed for major jail time. Against this backdrop, Oldcastle Theatre Company continues its year-round slate with an old favorite, Jerry Sterner's "Other People's Money," directed by Eric Peterson.
The story finds us in 1980s Rhode Island where New England Wire and Cable principal owner Andrew "Jorgy" Jorgenson (Philip A. Lance) happily keeps old-school manufacturing traditions alive and well with the help of his trusty assistant and significant other Bea Sullivan (Paula Mann), and company president and longtime operating manager William Coles (Richard Howe).
Enter Wall St. tycoon Larry ("The Liquidator") Garfinkle (Paul Romero), buying up stock at a rate that smacks of takeover and restructuring (a.k.a. liquidation of assets for profit). Reluctantly, Jorgy must turn to Bea's daughter, hot-shot big-city lawyer Kate (Jenny Strassburg) to help save the company. What follows is a chess match between the two sides, culminating at the annual meeting of shareholders and a dramatic vote to settle all scores.
Howe, who is also Oldcastle's associate artistic director, not only creditably filled the anxious shows of Coles, but also narrated the play from his character's vantage point, filling in the blanks following several pregnant pauses. Howe is Oldcastle's rock, and Peterson is lucky to have him.
Mann, about as fine an actor as this region has seen in the past three decades, and who wowed Oldcastle audiences with her stunning 2009 performance in Wendy Wasserstein's last play "Third," excelled on multiple levels: as devoted employee, as insistent mother, as empathic mate. She remains a paragon of grace, style and passion, all which she brought to bear on Bea's matchless loyalty to Jorgy.
Oldcastle veteran Lance cut a dignified, if not naïve, New England patriarch.
Romero, oversized in both girth and tastes, gave us so many reasons to hate Garfinkle, that it's to forget he's an actor; that's how convincing he plays the part. At times, his excesses make us wince in disgust. But his cold, calculating, and all-to-valid logic comes to a head in Garfinkle's concluding speech: We still loath everything about "The Liquidator," but cede him grudging respect for his response to Jorgy, even if we must later shower off his Jabba the Hut spittle.
Finally, every time I review Strassburg, I tell myself the next time will be more staid and reserved. It never works. Her Kate wowed us with pouts, rolling eyes, and come-hither sensibilities that were enough to scorch a hole through the stage floor. However, what endured was her versatility to shift emotional gears at a moment's notice, which allowed us to forgive her anything - which, at play's end, we did.
The show ran 2 hours and 10 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
The production crew outdid itself, what with the fine integration of lights (David V. Groupe), costumes to bring out personalities (Liz Stott) and a smattering of effective recordings to cover sound (Anastasia Haytko). Wm. John Auperlee's clever dual set was both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing, and gave the script an added dimension of surreal time and place. Sophia Garder's exceptional stage management continues.
"Other People's Money," which Peterson likes to say could be ripped from today's headlines, is really about some very basic human virtues and vices, nicely wrapped in a good vs. evil parable. Therein, leeway exists for every character to test themselves, and the results are not always predictable.
Some may tout this play as a political statement of our society. But it's really a morality tale of the inner struggle within us all, and that alone makes it a commendable addition to the region's summer stage offerings.
If you go .
What: Other People's Money
Where: Oldcastle Theatre Company, 331 Main St., Bennington
When: Through June 30
Tickets: 802-447-0564, oldcastletheatre.org