An article about the Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre's production of "Other People's Money" incorrectly reported the name of the fictional Wall Street takeover artist.His name is Lawrence Garfield.
OAKLAND -- Poison pill, shark repellent, white knight and greenmail may be incomprehensive phrases to many but, unfortunately, they're all too familiar to corporate raiders and others involved in big business.
The Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre will attempt to animate these terms and more in its upcoming production of "Other People's Money," running through April 12 at the Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. in Piedmont.
Jerry Sterner's 1989 tale of Wall Street takeover artist Lawrence Garfield and the company he plans to liquidate, unfortunately, still rings true today. Following the Wall Street meltdown, the bank/realtor/housing debacle and the dot-com bust, public trust has certainly declined.
According to Piedmont Oakland Rep's founder John McMullen, the play's title actually derives from a series of articles written in 1914 by Louis Brandeis for "Harper's Weekly." The timely articles concerning collusion between large banks and businessmen became a book entitled "Other People's Money -- and How the Bankers Use It." An avid supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, Brandeis helped the president push through a number of laws regulating the industry. But, with mergers and stock manipulation, conditions in the business world today remain pretty much the same.
And so, the wheels of business continue to grind. As the character Garfinkle astutely notes in the play, "All they do is change the rules. They can't stop the game."
In "Other People's Money," Garfield tries to convince stockholders to back his takeover of the family-owned New England Wire and Cable with little regard for the future of the company's 1,200 employees. The owner of the company, Andrew Jorgenson, company manager Bill Coles, and Jorgenson's longtime assistant, Bea Sullivan, hire Sullivan's daughter, Kate, a Morgan Stanley attorney, to fight Garfield.
"There was a regrettable attempt to make this serious-yet-funny play into a Hollywood romance starring Danny DeVito," McMullen said. "The play, however, is the real thing, and nothing like the cinematic version, which dumbed down the very important argument that shows both sides of the question and leaves the audience debating who is justified."
While McMullen highlights the debate between the adversaries, he also brings out the comedy and sexual tension. He has tagged the play "The Ultimate Seduction" referring not only to stockholders being seduced by money but also Garfield and Kate's sexual attraction to each other.
"When I pick a play, it has to touch the heart, and I prefer stories with two points of view in collision," McMullen explained. "We're looking deep into the script to bring out where the love is, where the sex is and where the funny is."
McMullen's cast of five has been hard at work delving into the various layers of Sterner's rich text with John Hale playing the pivotal role of the avaricious Garfield and Keith Jefferds as Jorgenson.
"I love a good argument, and John and Keith do an excellent job as proponents of two different points of view," McMullen said. The cast also includes Karly Shea as Kate, Susannah Wood as her mother and Brett Mermer as Cole.
According to McMullen, Sterner's 1989 work still speaks to 2014 audiences: "Everything is changing so fast. New technologies make some jobs obsolete while creating others. My own business -- telemarketing for the arts -- has completely changed."
"Other People's Money" is Piedmont Oakland Rep's second show. The company's inaugural show, "The Dining Room," took place in late November.
"I try to do seasonal things," McMullen said. "We did our first show around the holidays when many families were meeting around dining room tables, and our current show runs right up to tax day."
The company plans on performing five shows a year.
"We're looking at several possibilities but haven't made a decision on the other shows yet," said McMullen, who added he has a wonderful board of directors: "Our board has great experience and is very supportive. I've been a theater critic for years and see lots of shows, so I have an idea of what works. I also live close to Piedmont Avenue and know the demographics of the people here and what they'll enjoy seeing."
For tickets to "Other People's Money," call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or go to www.piedmontoaklandrep.org.