f(x+y) or, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. That's the business message behind the fun and doughnuts in Shattered Globe Theatre's new '80s comedy/drama, Other People's Money, a story that..." />

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Theater Mon Sep 16 2013

Shattered Globe Shows How to Spend Other People's Money

In "mathspeak," f(x) + f(y) > f(x+y) or, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. That's the business message behind the fun and doughnuts in Shattered Globe Theatre's new '80s comedy/drama, Other People's Money, a story that reminds us how corporate raiders worked: Buying what they saw as undervalued companies. Selling off the parts to generate more money than the whole company is worth, in the process, of course, laying off employees and sometimes doing permanent damage to the town where the company was located.

Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Other People's Money tells this story with wit and gusto. The subject is an old Rhode Island company, New England Wire & Cable, whose CEO, Andrew Jorgenson or "Jorgie" (Doug McDade), is getting close to retirement. Enter Lawrence Garfinkle, aka "Larry the Liquidator," (Ben Werling plays him with relish, charm, braggadocio and a huge appetite for doughnuts) who has been buying up shares of NEW&C with the goal of owning and "restructuring" the company [as in f(x) + f(y) > f(x+y)].

Garfinkle describes himself this way: "I love money. I love money more than the things it can buy. There's only one thing I love more than money. You know what that is? Other people's money."

The company hasn't been doing well lately, but Jorgie thinks it will survive and thrive. The knowledgeable and sensible CFO William (Joseph Wiens) is more realistic and hopes to take over the company someday--and he has his own interests at heart. Linda Reiter plays Bea Sullivan, Jorgie's long-time assistant; when the Garfinkle attack looms, she calls for help from her daughter, Kate (Abbey Smith), an attractive, ambitious lawyer for a large investment firm.

This sets up the competition between Larry and Kate. The scenes move back and forth between the somewhat grungy office of the company and Larry's slick Wall Street office (clever set design by Andrew Hildner). Doughnuts are part of his d├ęcor and provide occasional repartee:

Larry: "Would you like a doughnut?"
Kate: "No thank you. I'm not hungry."
Larry: "Gotta be hungry to eat a doughnut? I never heard of such a thing."

The competition to save NEW&C from extinction results in many meetings between Kate and Larry, and sexual tension grows between them as they negotiate the business matter. This may seem like an unlikely attraction--a pretty young lawyer and a portly, 50ish raider--but the actors make the sexual energy of warfare realistic.

The dialogue is smart and funny and the production moves along briskly, with fine acting from the cast of four. Nevertheless, the subject matter is a bit dated, which becomes clear when Larry gives us a brief history of corporate raiders and financial scandals. If you're old enough, you remember names like Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Victor Posner and Carl Icahn, and you remember that our vocabulary included terms like "greenmail," "poison pill," "white knight," "shark repellent" and "golden parachutes."

But the financial world collapsed exactly five years ago this month and taught us a new language: the demise of Lehmann Brothers and AIG--banks that were "too big to fail." That's why Other People's Money has a faint whiff of quaintness. But if you look at it as the 1989 version of a drawing room comedy, you have an enjoyable theater experience in store.

Other People's Money runs through October 19 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online or by calling 773-975-8150.

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