PIEDMONT -- Bill Coles is having a very bad day, which means some fun for local theatergoers. At least, for those who attend "Other People's Money" at Piedmont Oakland Rep.
Coles (Brett Mermer) doesn't know what to do about his boss, Andrew Jorgenson (Keith Jefferds), who won't bend his principles to save his family company and Coles' job from a hostile takeover by Wall Street corporate raider Lawrence Garfield (John Hale). Enter Bea Sullivan (Susannah Wood), Jorgenson's longtime assistant and girlfriend, whose daughter Kate (Karly Shea) just happens to be an attractive, aggressive lawyer. Sparks fly in and out of negotiations as Kate and Garfield battle for control of Jorgenson's small New England manufacturing company.
Expertly crafted with witty dialogue and seamless shifts from one location to another, Sterner's comedy explores the high-stakes maneuvers of making money for investors rather than products for consumers. Piedmont Oakland Rep, a promising young company, presents Jerry Sterner's satirical examination of Wall Street etiquette through April 12.
Director John McMullen's preshow music, such as Madonna's "Material Girl," sets the tone as the play begins. Rob Bradshaw's minimal set keeps the action flowing as actors finish one scene while walking into the next. Cell phones the size of bricks add a nice 1980s touch.
McMullen's five-person cast does a nice job capturing the various characters; although, some cast members, especially Mermer, would benefit from faster pacing and higher energy levels. Jefferds and Wood (Elizabeth Dunne takes over her role in April) do well as the older couple trying to preserve a way of life for themselves and their community with Jefferds epitomizing the small business owner.
The two that keep the action going, however, are Shea and Hale as they play their high-stakes money games loaded with sexual tension. Hale is particularly effective as he literally sings and dances some of Sterner's satirical remarks and easily transitions from hard-line, take-no-prisoners businessman to a more childlike enjoyment of the game. In the final scene, where the stockholders (and the audience) vote for who will control the company, Hale manages to even show a bit of feeling for those he may be putting out of a job.
"Other People's Money" plays Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 5 p.m. through April 12 at the Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. in Piedmont. Tickets are $25. Call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or go to www.piedmontoaklandrep.org for reservations.