When the entertainment industry jerked its collective knee in outrage at corporate raiders and financial shenanigans in the late 1980s, Michael Douglas’ portrayal of Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” created a poster boy for all that was perceived as wrong with high-stakes stock players.
For the next two weeks, Kevin Harger is a portlier but compelling version of Gekko, even if he never says “greed is good” in so many words.
Harger, a veteran of Theatre Baton Rouge productions, stars as Lawrence Garfinkle in “Other People’s Money,” a Jerry Sterner play that examines the morality — or lack thereof — of corporate takeovers that reward stockholders, but hurt workers, when companies are worth more dead than alive. Men like Ivan Boesky and Carl Icahn became famous enough for such maneuvers that their names are dropped in the script with the realization that audiences would know who they are.
Garfinkle is a nasty piece of work — arrogant, unfeeling and rude, a man whose appetite for a good doughnut is exceeded only by his attraction to money.
His appreciation for the latter has brought a Rhode Island firm, New England Wire & Cable, to his attention. Its low stock price, lack of debt and changing market forces make it a perfect candidate for lucrative liquidation. Nothing is going to stop him, certainly not the company’s kindly old Boy Scout of a CEO, Andrew Jorgenson (played by Brian Hales), or his nervous, impatient president, William Cole (Robert Gautreau).
Harger brings tremendous energy to a role that never loses its rough edges, even when he crudely tries to woo the lawyer — Kate Sullivan (Courtney Murphy) — sent to thwart him. Kate has mixed emotions.
She resents Jorgenson because Bea (Nancy Litton), her mother and his assistant, fell in love with him and divorced Kate’s father. But Kate has experience with fighting such takeovers and taking down Garfinkle would be a feather in her cap.
That battle carries the bulk of the play and Kate isn’t above using Garfinkle’s libido against him. (The language and occasional sexual innuendo are borderline PG-13/R territory.) They are very good as opponents, adding humor to the play and keeping it moving.
I didn’t really see the personal chemistry develop between them that the script demands.
Gautreau ably portrayed his worrywart role, and Hales was a sympathetic figure as the old-school boss struggling to adapt to more ruthless times. He stumbled over some lines on opening night, but otherwise handled things well.
The play runs 2½ hours and drags a bit in the second act, becoming a bit preachy about corporate evils. But the climactic stockholders meeting, where Jorgenson and Garfinkle make their cases, is a strong climax.