A bad business at Citadel
‘Other People’s Money’
Citadel Theatre Company, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 29-Oct. 28, plus 1 p.m. matinees Oct. 10 and 17
$37.50, $32.50 for students and seniors; discounts available for Thursday and Sunday performances
(847) 735-8554; www.citadeltheatre.org
Updated: September 26, 2012 3:20PM
Lawrence Garfinkle knows a good deal when he sees it.
And the New York corporate raider sees a great one in the undervalued stock of a small town company called New England Wire & Cable. If the stockholders agree, they will profit handsomely, too. Never mind that the town and its 1,200 employees will be out of luck if the man known as “Larry the Liquidator” chooses to liquidate the company’s assets.
This may sound like a news item but it is actually the plot of “Other People’s Money,” Jerry Sterner’s 1989 Off-Broadway hit, being staged by Citadel Theatre Company under Robert Estrin’s direction.
The director and the two stars we spoke with agree that this is a timely tale.
“There are a lot of businesses going out of business today,” Estrin said. In his program notes, the director writes about a small-town company in Frankfort, Ill., where he used to teach, that was taken over by Bain Capital. “They’re closing the factory and shipping all of the jobs over to China,” Estrin related.
“Other People’s Money” tells a similar story. “It’s the small guy versus the big guy and small town values versus corporate America — the choices that we have to make and the games that people play,” Estrin said.
Despite the serious subject, the director emphasized that it is a funny play. “It is very witty,” he noted. “It’s such an intelligent script.”
Glencoe resident Ed Kuffert plays Garfinkle. Kuffert compared Garfinkle to Gordon Gekko, the money-grubbing character in the movie “Wall Street.”
Garfinkle is also “larger than life,” Kuffert said. “And he’s a curiously moral individual. There are games that he won’t play. Despite the fact that his business constitutes buying and selling companies, there are boundary lines and lines of morality he objects to. He says at one point, ‘I think of myself as a modern-day Robin Hood. I take from the rich and give to the middle class.’ ”
Kuffert believes this show is timely because there are companies today that “become about the business of business rather than the business of manufacturing things.”
Denice Mahler, who arrived in Chicago a few months ago, after spending three years as a resident actor at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia, plays Kate, a lawyer who is the company owner’s stepdaughter. She gets involved in the workings of the business when Garfinkle becomes a threat.
“She is smart,” Mahler declared. “Kate has to live between the world where she grew up, in this small town in New England, and then living in the big city and knowing how the corporate world works. I think it’s absolutely fascinating how she has to go back and forth between these people to make each of them understand what life is like for the other one.”
Mahler declared that the play “speaks to so many things that are happening in our economy and what the corporate world is all about. It’s a comedy in one sense but it’s also a very poignant political commentary.”