THEATER REVIEW: ‘Money’ revives all-too-current display of raw greed

“Other People’s Money”/ Ghent Playhouse

IF YOU’VE BEEN READING Barron’s or watching CNBC for a few decades, it will be a lot easier to follow the basic goings-on in “Other People’s Money,” a play about money-grabbing corporate liquidation and business ethics–or the lack thereof. If you haven’t been reading Barron’s, there is still lots of snappy wit and sexy verbal sparring to imbibe and some attractive people to look at in Ghent’s production.

The play was written back in the ’80s, well before our financial meltdown. At that time, Darwinian financial machinations were a lot more fun than they seem today. The playwright was a businessman, and “Money” was his only play. It is a period piece.

The plot is probably familiar: solid folksy folks of New England are pitted against a conniving, Bain-Capital-style, new-economy smartass. This time the smartass wins, but not without a well-argued aria from the folk side. (Author-intentioned or not, the smartass seems to get the high notes, the melismas and the main theme.)

These days Ghent Playhouse has a rich roster of actors to choose from, and director Roseann Cane has chosen well.

Although Neil Berntson might take a cue from his fellow actors and give up swallowing vowels (yes, voice still matters), he is well-cast and especially effective in his listening mode.

Along with his usual unshakable truthfulness, John Trainor gives the beleaguered Rhode Island CEO a bit of late-life bounce that morphs into a strong, thoroughly grounded statement of values.

Nancy Hammell, a lady graced with a stage-face-to-die-for, connects so warmly with Trainor that the whole history of their relationship is revealed in a few gestures. Their abundant personhood is especially welcome in a play heavy with business ideologies.

Sleek and confident in her expensive black lawyer-duds, Colleen Lovett is an attractive, able fulcrum in the plot, at least when she is not wrestling with the set. (More of that later.)

No, no, no, I said when I heard that Mark “Monk” Schane-Lydon was cast in the lead as Larry the Liquidator Garfinkle. But I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Schane-Lydon is spectacular in the role, and I promise not to underestimate him again.

About that set: Ghent’s small stage is bifurcated and crowded. A beautiful old table on stage right is surrounded with mixed, pick-up chairs and the pleasantly loose housekeeping of an old New England firm. Stage left is furnished with appropriately ugly eighties-modern office décor and large citified windows.

The problem is that people and objects from the New England side bleed into the New York office; and it is disconcerting to see a character exit the New England office through New York City. (I suppose that could be symbolic, but somehow, it is simply discomfiting.) Furthermore, in some scenes, Lovett is constantly faced with a decision about whether to cheat front or deliver all her lines to the back of the stage where sits the man she is addressing. She becomes a swiveling wonder. (Too few director/designer consultations perhaps?)

Revisiting the moral dilemma of jungle economics versus something more socially responsible is definitely worth doing. Sterner lays it out pretty well, leaving you to decide what world-view makes sense for the future of civilization. The conflict lives on in our current arguments about the size of government, extraordinary income inequality, and whether or not we are our brothers’ keepers.

The play runs through October 27. Reserve tickets at 518 392-6264 or at




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