The story is all too familiar, especially in modern times.

  • A locally owned company is built from the ground up. Those who work there think of it as a family, but sentiment doesn’t mean anything to the corporation looking in from the outside.
  • It sees the company only in terms of stockholder shares, and the mere possibility of a buyout changes everything.

“Some people go into denial,” says Kurt Hauschild. “Others see the writing on the wall and start thinking about what they’re going to do.”

And true characters emerge. Some people remain loyal to their principles; others sell out to land a job.

It’s simply the way of the modern world in Jerry Sterner’s dark comedy, “Other People’s Money,” which Hauschild is directing at Theatre Baton Rouge. This fourth production in the theater’s 2014-15 Capital Series opens Friday, Jan. 23.

  • “It comes down to a question of value and worth,” Hauschild says. “Garfinkle looks at the company in terms of value, how much money it will make. Jorgenson looks at it from the point of view of worth, the company his father built and what it means to the people who work there.”
  • Larry “The Liquidator” Garfinkle is the main character in Sterner’s play, which premiered in New York’s Minetta Lane Theatre in 1989. The film version, starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck and Penelope Ann Miller, was released in 1991.

In it, Garfinkle is a corporate raider who has made a career of buying up companies, breaking them apart and selling off their assets.

Now, New England Wire & Cable, run by the benevolent Andrew Jorgenson, is ripe for a takeover.

It’s a “been-there-forever” company that’s served as the main employer of a small Rhode Island town for generations. Jorgenson resolves to fight the outsiders by hiring a lawyer, who happens to be the daughter of a longtime employee.

That’s where the wrench is thrown into Garfinkle’s plan. He never expects to fall in love. But is his love for the lawyer worth the value of the company?

“It’s interesting, because you see changes in Garfinkle in this play,” says Kevin Harger, who plays the corporate raider. “I started understanding who he was as we rehearsed. He’s from the Bronx, and he really had to pull himself up. He built this career for himself, and he’s successful.”

It’s the American dream. Or one way of looking at it. Robert Gautreau presents another way.

Gautreau plays the company’s chief financial officer William Coles, who Jorgenson has picked to run the company when he retires.

Coles is living the American dream of rising to the top through hard work.

“But he knows what’s about to happen,” Gautreau says. “He sees the writing on the wall, and he has to make a decision on what to do. Does he stay loyal to Jorgenson or does he do whatever he has to do to for a position in the new company?”

It’s again the question of principles and selling out.

“This play really does take a look at the business world in different ways,” Harger says. “Garfinkle is successful at what he does, and he’s arrogant. You don’t want to like him at first, but then you come to understand who he is and why.”

The writer, Hauschild pointed, really doesn’t portray anyone as a villain.

“The speech that Garfinkle gives at the end is really quite remarkable,” he says. “The speech Jorgenson gives is really remarkable, too. It’s just a matter of two ways of looking at the situation.”