The power of money

Gothic North’s Other People’s Money conveys a disturbing message

This version of <i>Other People’s Money </i> is nothing like the movie.

This version of Other People’s Money is nothing like the movie.

Rated 3.0

After seeing Gothic North Theater’s production of Other People’s Money, I’m more convinced than ever that the cliché is true: Money is the root of all evil.

I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but I will say this: If you’ve seen the movie, forget it. Hollywood made Jerry Sterner’s play more palatable for the movie-going masses by adding a heaping helping of warm fuzzies. Gothic North does not.

Scott Van Tuyl plays Lawrence Garfinkle, a.k.a. Larry the Liquidator, a big-time Wall Street shark. Larry buys companies that are worth more dead than alive, dismantles them and sells the pieces, making oodles of dough for himself and the stockholders. In his wake, communities are left jobless and many a life’s work has been destroyed.

In this case, it’s the life’s work of Andrew Jorgenson (John Coney) that is threatened. Jorgy’s New England Cable & Wire has been in business at least since the Depression, accumulating a desirable lack of debt and an impressive list of diversified businesses. Still, the company is small-time compared to the big guys on Wall Street; new technology is making the company obsolete, and the stock is worth one-sixth of what it was 10 years prior.

Though Jorgy stands to make big bucks if he allows the company to be “killed” and sold off in pieces, the company means more to him than its profits. It’s his legacy, one he plans to pass down to his right-hand man, William Coles (John Rutski II). Jorgy can’t bear the thought of putting the 1,200 men at his plant out of work, and he can’t stand the idea of letting Larry get the best of him.

Reluctantly to the rescue comes Kate Sullivan (Melanie Collup), the daughter of Jorgy’s assistant and longtime love interest, Bea Sullivan (Sue Higley). Kate left small-town New England to be a power player at law firm Morgan Stanley, and she realizes that a win against Larry will look mighty good on her resume. Two problems: 1) Jorgy refuses to compromise, making the case that much harder to win; and 2) Kate finds her self strangely attracted to Larry, who represents the powerful, prestigious, moneyed life she desires.

Unlike Danny DeVito’s role in the film, Scott Van Tuyl’s interpretation of Larry the Liquidator doesn’t inspire descriptions like “lovable villain.” And that’s just fine with me, because this guy’s behavior is not in any way lovable and shouldn’t be characterized as such. Rather, Van Tuyl’s lewd, sneering, immature Larry is perfect for inspiring descriptions like “heartless asshole” and “money-grubbing bastard.” I’m sure Van Tuyl is a real nice guy, but his Larry was so despicable I wanted to walk up on stage and knee him in the crotch. In other words: great performance, Scott!

John Coney is well cast in the role of Jorgy, combining the right mix of small-town naiveté and cranky old-dude stubbornness. He’s got a great, rumbly voice that booms throughout the theater when he’s yelling, which he does a lot of in this play. Melanie Collup and John Rutski II also played their parts well. Sue Higley’s portrayal of Bea was a little stiff, but not awful by any means.

The set and lighting nicely contrasted Larry’s rich, sleek offices with Jorgy’s yellowy, old-fashioned digs, but director Gary Helmers gets my biggest thumbs up for great sound choices. Every money-related rock song you can think of is used during scene changes, intermission and before and after the play, and it was fun to listen and wonder what the next song would be.