Other People's Money Review - Dogs, Doughnuts, and Money

A successful businessman who dabbled in the stock market much of his life, playwright Jerry Sterner had the financial and corporate chops to pen a clever tongue-in-cheek play about – what else? – the workings of corporate America. Sterner’s opus, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, was first presented in 1989 and successfully ran for several years. But success as a writer did not come easily to Sterner. After attending City College in New York, he spent six years selling subway tokens and wrote seven plays while working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. enclosed in his little token booth. When he couldn’t sell any of his plays, he turned to real estate, eventually becoming the President of David C. Gold and Company. In 1984, he stepped down to return to writing plays full time. Sterner once said, “Many other playwrights have written better, but no one has enjoyed having written more.”

Kent Minault, Barry Heins, and Rob Adler - Photo by Ed Krieger

As OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY opens, a hostile takeover is in progress. “Larry the Liquidator” Garfinkle has his sights set on taking over one of the only cable and wire companies that managed to survive multiple downturns in the economy. But Garfinkle isn’t interested in taking over the company to streamline it and raise profits; he wants to artificially drive up stock prices, buy a controlling share himself, and then close the company and use it as a tax write-off. He sees himself as the Robin Hood of finance, a modern gunslinger, and is proud of saying, “I don’t make things; I make money for the stockholders…I love money…the only things that give you unconditional acceptance are dogs, doughnuts, and money.” And so the “Charles Darwin of Wall Street” brings Neanderthals into the modern age.

Robyn Cohen and Rob Adler - Photo by Ed Krieger

But Garfinkle’s predatory plans are sideswiped by CEO Jorgenson, who sees the company as his family’s legacy and refuses to destroy the lives of 1200 company workers (and the small town they all live in). His trusty secretary Bea, who has harbored a crush on him for years, calls upon her attorney daughter Kate to help before it’s too late. The intricacies of the plot interact with the intricacies of business law to create a fascinating and very amusing study of today’s business ethics.

D. J. Harner and Robyn Cohen - Photo by Ed Krieger

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY is double cast. On the evening of the review, Garfinkle was played by an exuberant and charming Rob Adler, a man you love to hate. Kate, his legal nemesis, was ably performed by Robyn Cohen. Other talented cast members included CEO Jorgenson (Kent Minault), trusty secretary and chief bottle washer Bea (D.J. Harner), and devious company president Coles (Barry Heins). Each did a terrific job of bringing this satirical study of the world of business to life. Garfinkle was especially strong as the cuddly and predatory Teddy Bear Garfinkle, who swooped into everyone’s life with donuts and chuckles – and walked away with anything not nailed down.

Kent Minault, D. J. Harner, and Barry Heins - Photo by Ed Krieger

Ably helmed by director Oliver Muirhead, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY flew by with rapid comedic pacing. Gary Lee Reed’s set design was spare and enhanced by Carol Doehring’s apt use of lighting to highlight and focus audience attention. Even though the play was written in the 1980’s, the ethical questions it raised are as timely today as they were more than 30 years ago. Only a writer who has personally observed business dealings like these could do such a delicate job of dissecting the “how-to” of making money. And keep you laughing too.

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY runs through November 20, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Pico Playhouse is located at 10508 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tickets are $32 ($27 students and seniors). For information and reservations, call 818-765-8732 or go online.

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