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Other People's Money at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 23 August 2010

Oh, for the good old days! It’s been some years since I’ve needed to see Masquers productions in rehearsal in order to meet the deadline for TPIT magazine. I’d forgotten how rehearsals change one’s perception of a play; although less tidy, in some ways they’re a much richer experience.

Other People’s Money, written in 1989 by Jerry Sterner, is directed by Robert Estes and plays until October 2. The show takes place in a small manufacturing town where New England Wire & Cable, a publicly traded firm, employs most of the town’s inhabitants.

The factory has been in the same building (with nearly the same paint job) for well-nigh four score years. For almost half that time, Andrew Jorgenson (Keith Jefferds) has been the Chairman with Bea Sullivan (RoyAnne Florence) as his loyal assistant. William Coles (Frederick Lein), President, is a relative newcomer with a mere dozen years history with the firm.

From left to right: Bonnie Antonini, RoyAnne Florence, Keith Jefferds, and Will Maier (seated) in Other Peoples Money. Photo by Jerry Telfer.

Into this quiescent kingdom strolls Lawrence Garfinkle (Will Maier), dressed oxymoronically like an untidy banker, who is a takeover hotshot. The firm’s future begins to look dim. In self defense, the firm hires Bea’s daughter, Kate Sullivan (Bonnie Antonini), to prevent a hostile takeover.

Dignified mayhem ensues.

The set, designed by Rob Bradshaw very cleverly sets up the worlds of the two offices: the grubby factory with an old wooden floor (well done that!) and Garfinkle’s New York den which is antiseptic and featureless, except for the banks of modern [sic] computers.

Donuts gain new life as stage props, though the manufactured donut item is a flop—unless its goal was to illustrate how an old fashioned company would construct an improbable toy (i.e. poorly).

One particularly nice aspect of this play is the frequency with which the actors take up conversing directly with the audience. The performance also portrays well the undemonstrable actions of characters on the telephone or performing soliloquies.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this show is how true to life it is. The math almost makes sense. The audience doesn’t really need to suspend disbelief; the performance perfectly portrays an experience in my past—probably in yours too.

When Lawrence Garfinkle (Will Maier) appears, he’s soft spoken and unpretentious. Moments later he sheds his camouflage shell and unveils his plans to consume New England Wire & Cable. Garfinkle dominates the show. He is fascinating and horrible, rather like watching a spider eat its prey. At every turn he gets slimier, fatter and uglier. Somewhere in there he gets sexier.

I know, it makes no sense. I was thoroughly repulsed by Garfinkle, and yet . . . I found him enticing. In between watching rehearsed vignettes and the full rehearsal, I had an opportunity to talk with Will. He’s a handsome and engaging young man. In my mind’s eye, I remembered the powerful attractive/repulsive pull from the play, but Will himself is pleasant. Later I saw the full play, and there it was again, stronger than ever.

So, my vote is that Will Maier bears watching.

Kate Sullivan (Bonnie Antonini) is hot, hot, hot! And she knows it, which is part of the fun. I was easily persuaded to identify with her. She travels through a range of emotions convincingly, but her most fun exploits are when sets out to do battle with the sexists. The idea of that Neanderthal’s being upstaged by a girl who’s wet behind the ears is delightful.

Meanwhile, Andrew Jorgenson (Keith Jefferds) reminisces aloud. In spite of his pleasant words, he’s evidently an autocratic tyrant. But Jorgy lives in an ordered world where things have always been and will continue to be done explicitly and with care. His speech was so passionate, I could not imagine how anyone, anywhere could say anything to match it.

Bea Sullivan (RoyAnne Florence) reminds me of my first factory job where the beauties therein dressed to a different drummer—styled for a former era, they presented themselves as perfect representations of a perfect past. Could it be the air in the factory? Bea, looking like June Cleaver, seems feminine and fragile but she conceals a strong will.

William Coles (Frederick Lein) looks perfect and behaves like many good accountants by hiding his character in plain sight. He tells the truth, but it’s a truth many don’t want to hear. He feels like a traitor, but he’s not, he’s a realist.

It’s the age old swindle — er, battle — between the old and the new. Or, it’s about money, the great leveller.

Definitely a show to see.

How did you feel about the play? Comments are welcome.

Fuddy Meers was performed Aug 27 - October 2, 2010, at the Masquers Theatre in Point Richmond, California. This review was also published in This Point In Time (TPIT), Vol. XXIX-2, Sept 2010, a publication of the Point Richmond History Association.