Power, money, sex and doughnuts

Gas prices being what they are, Greene’s becoming quite the little tourist attraction for this big city Norwich boy. The little village has quite a bit going for it these days, from the quaint little shops to a variety of culinary choices ... but my new favorite small-town gem there has more of a big-city flair.

The Chenango River Theatre. Earlier this summer, I had my first chance to see a show at this new equity-actor venue, just south of the village of Greene. Housed in a newly-renovated former commercial building next to B&G Trucking at 991 State Rt. 12, it’s a unique and intimate theater that’s attracting growing audiences both from the Triple Cities area and a fervent following from Chenango County as well. Count me among them.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to see The Chenango River Theater’s latest production, “Other People’s Money.” Since the show is nearing the end of its run (it’ll be on stage Thursday and through the weekend), I thought I’d let readers know here just what a great show it is.

Probably most familiar as the 1991 Danny Devito movie, “Other People’s Money” was a successful off-Broadway play in the late 1980s, written by Jerry Sterner. It was a hit with the Wall Street crowd because of its topical subject matter – a small New England company is threatened by a hostile takeover from a New York investor. I remember the movie had a very 80s vibe, as does the plot in some regards, very Gordon Gekko, Wall Street-esque. But given this week’s headlines, the storyline and its themes are far from antiquated. Throw in power, money, sex and doughnuts, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

As the play opens, we meet Bill Coles (Drew Kahl), an up-and-coming, and uptight, executive at New England Wire and Cable. Bill’s been slaving away at the venerable company in the hopes of one day taking it over himself ... through hard work and dedication. That’s what he learned from the family company’s head, “Jorgy” Jorgensen (Binghamton’s own Bill Gorman), who’s managed the plant for a good portion of its 70-some years, through good times and bad. Standing stalwart by Jorgy’s side is his faithful assistant and longtime love, Bea (Judy McMahon).

All’s going fairly well at the Rhode Island fixture until Wall Street investor Lawrence Garfinkle (Paul Romero) sets his eye on the company’s stock, and soon becomes a major player. At first, the folks at New England Wire and Cable welcome Garfinkle with open arms, but it doesn’t take them long to realize why he’s called “Larry the Liquidator” on Wall Street – he intends to gain control of the company’s stock, disband it, and basically sell it for parts. New England Wire and Cable became a prime target, Garfinkle tells them later, and it’s “worth more alive than dead.”

In her efforts to defend Jorgy’s family business, Bea enlists the help of her daughter, Kate Sullivan (Heidi Weeks), a Wall Street shark herself – and a high-powered and determined lawyer.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Kate and Garfinkle’s initial acerbic banter will eventually lead to a twisted kind of love, but the chemistry between Romero and Weeks, while perhaps not as obvious on the physical level, is certainly palpable. The dialogue in “Other People’s Money” is rapid-fire and brilliant, and Romero and Weeks pull it off with aplomb.

Don’t count out the New Englanders, though. Jorgy and crew put up quite a fight to save their little company, culminating in Jorgy’s final plea to shareholders at their annual meeting not to let Garfinkle destroy what they’ve worked generations to create. Gorman is nothing short of inspirational in his Harry Truman-esque tirade against the evils of big business. But just when you think nothing can top Jorgy’s impassioned plea, Garfinkle takes the podium and delivers a soliloquy that’s equally as passionate, and cold-bloodedly logical.

Directing the production is CRT’s Artistic and Managing Director Bill Lelbach, who in reflecting on the show, said in a press release, “This show may be more timely now than when it was written - it’s like watching a murder mystery - you don’t know who’s going to be left standing at the end, and it’s funny to boot. It has great resonance for an area like ours - just imagine the impact if someone decided to buy out the biggest employer in our region for the sole purpose of dismantling the company because short term it would provide greater benefit to the stockholders.”

With all the sturm und drang on Wall Street these days, treat yourself to the human side of the equation and spend some “Other People’s Money” at the Chenango River Theater in Greene this weekend. For showtimes and ticket information, visit www.chenangorivertheatre.org, or call 656-8999.

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