Review: Other People’s Money, Southwark Playhouse

It’s been three decades since Jerry Sterner’s production of Other People’s Money first opened on Broadway in 1989, two years after the stock market crash. Shortly after, the play was made into a movie starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck, and now, 30 years later it has been revived for a timely run at the Southwark Playhouse.

Andrew Jorgenson (Michael Brandon) runs the Wire and Cable Company in a sleepy town in New England with help from his manager William Coles (Mark Rose) and assistant Bea Sullivan (Lin Blakley). The company attracts the attention of Wall Street corporate raider ‘Larry the Liquidator’ (Lawrence Garfinkle, played by Rob Locke), who starts buying up stock and sets his sights on stripping the business of its assets to make a buck or two himself. In a bid to try and save the company Bea calls on her daughter Kate (Amy Burke), a hot-shot lawyer, and she’s encouraged to go head-to-head with the heavyweight Wall Street fat cat.

Directed by Katharine Farmer, Other People’s Money is a fast-paced, well-acted production. Set in the 1980s, in a world of shoulder pads and big, big hair (notably Kate’s), the action is split between Jorgi’s family-run in Rhode Island and Larry’s more upmarket place of work in Manhattan, with their two contrasting offices positioned at either end of the traverse staging. Sterner’s script is difficult to follow at times with the dialogue heavy on financial and legal terminology, but thankfully the performances of the five strong cast help to keep the audience engaged. Rob Locke is perfectly cast as Larry, a greasy, heartless man with a love for Dunkin Donuts (not the wholewheat kind however) and a deplorable attitude towards women. Though his character is detestable at times, Larry also brings humour to the production when he has to ‘slum it’ in Rhode Island – Locke’s facial expressions when entering Jorgi’s paper-strewn, dusty office provide comic relief in among the facts and figures that are being thrown around. Mark Rose provides strong support as Coles, as does Amy Burke, although you can’t help but wish Kate would take Larry to task the instant he airs his misogynistic views. Michael Brandon is convincing and endearing as Jorgi, who’s determined to do things his way, and it’s impossible not to root for him. He shares great chemistry with the scene-stealing Bea Sullivan, who’s delightfully funny, and their not entirely professional relationship is one of the more believable moments in the play.

Although Other People’s Money does provide some laugh-out-loud moments, it is let down by heavy, confusing dialogue. The source material should be relevant given news headlines in the world today, but instead it feels dated, and not just in terms of Larry’s views of Kate (“let’s talk about your tits,” he tells her in one of the play’s more cringeworthy moments). Nevertheless, Other People’s money is well-acted, packed full of humour and makes for an entertaining evening. At the very least you’ll leave the theatre craving a Dunkin Donut.

Other People’s Money runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 11 May.

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