Director Ron Bloomberg leans over to me at a recent rehearsal for the Santa Fe Playhouse production of Other People’s Money, and says, “This is one of the first plays to address vulture capitalism. It’s very relevant today…Romney’s Bain Capital.”
The cast is reading through Act II for the benefit of an actor who has recently joined the production.
Until an injunction prohibited him from doing so, Lawrence Garfinkle (David McConnell), aka “Larry the Liquidator,” had been buying up New England Wire and Cable stock in a bid to tear the manufacturer apart and make a bunch of money. But everyone seems to understand that the court order is only a temporary stay, so the family vainly appeals to Garfinkle through his heart and his wallet.
Playwright Jerry Sterner wrote most of his work in his 40s after a lifetime in marketing and real estate; he published Other People’s Money in 1989. Bloomberg, too, had spent half his life in a profession he’d “rather forget,” having been a sitcom writer for 25 years before moving to Santa Fe. He finally he left Los Angeles because he “could be miserable anywhere.”
The Hollywood version of Other People’s Money, a 1991 movie starring Danny Devito, is “not as good as the play,” he says.
Bloomberg has been affiliated with the Playhouse in various capacities since he arrived in Santa Fe eight years ago. A reading of his work a few years back introduced him to director Barry Hazen, co-director of Other People’s Money.
“Barry does the blocking. I do performance,” Bloomberg explains. “I will get to work when Barry’s done in a couple of weeks.”
On stage, the new actor follows her understudy around for a second reading of Act II, this time with blocking. Debrianna Mansini signed up as the ambitious attorney Kate Sullivan after another actor didn’t work out for multiple reasons, according to Bloomberg. In all his years working with the Playhouse, these are the best performers he’s seen, he says, and he’s excited about the addition of a “real talent.” Mansini played a character in the film Crazy Heart, named Ann, who gave Bad Black (Jeff Bridges) her phone number.
In the play, company principal Andrew Jorgenson (Michael Davis), hires Kate to deal with Garfinkle. Bea Sullivan (Jennifer Graves), her mother and Jorgenson’s wife, offers Garfinkle a bribe of $1 million to take a settlement; he declines. And longtime family friend and employee Bill Coles (Jason Adams), jaded by Jorgenson’s stubbornness and fearful of his own family’s future should the company go under, pledges his support (for a fee) to Garfinkle. As Adams walks on stage, he bumps into a rolled-up carpet. He runs through the scene with Garfinkle, and then faces the audience. “Everyone looks out for himself,” he says. Adams breaks character, as if the words had just become relevant to him and he looks down to Hazen in the audience.
“Move the carpet,” he says, pointing behind him and laughing.
Jorgenson refuses a compromise that would cost many jobs but save the company (“Why couldn’t you be an asshole like everybody else? Kate says), then leaves it up to the rest of the stockholders to decide the company’s future. Not knowing about Cole’s deal, he’s certain he has 40 percent of the votes in the bag before he and Garfinkle deliver their speeches to a gathering of stockholders.
“The last two speeches are some of the best writing in theatre,” Bloomberg says. “They are addressing the audience as the stockholders. Jorgenson delivers a beautiful speech. You think it can’t be topped. Then, Larry the Liquidator comes in.”
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