Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Stage lampoon full of chilling relevancy. Only `baddies' populate this slice of financial life. The world of high finance becomes the stuff of high drama in `Wall Street' (left), a hard-hitting film from `Platoon' director Oliver Stone, and in `Serious Money,' Caryl Churchill's savagely satirical stage import from London.

Serious Money Play by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Max Stafford-Clark. Wall Street's Oct. 19 plunge has lent a chilling new relevancy to ``Serious Money,'' the blistering satire on high finance and gutter ethics at the Public/Newman Theater. Caryl Churchill's free-verse free-for-all combines Swiftian savage indignation with contemporary bawdiness.

The exceptionally researched expos'e staged by Max Stafford-Clark has come to New York in a continuation of the Public Theater-Royal Court exchange.

About these ads

``Serious Money'' begins with a snippet from Thomas Shadwell's 17th-century comedy ``The Stockjobbers'' and then proceeds to parody its 20th-century counterparts. The sardonic entertainment, with its occasional songs, reflects various other influences, including Joan Littlewood's ``Oh, What a Lovely War!''

But whatever its factual references, the Churchill lampoon is a self-contained stage extravaganza with its own story lines, political bias, and larger-than-life carica-tures.

To the extent that they can be followed, the interwining plots concern the transatlantic shenanigans surrounding a ruthless corporate takeover and the murder of a central player in the lethal game.

There are no good guys or gals among the characters portrayed by the versatile principals of ``Serious Money,'' all of whom play multiple roles. Only baddies populate the hectic trading floor of LIFFE (London International Financial Futures Exchange) and the other purlieus of profiteering. For example, LIFFE dealer Scilla Todd (Joanne Pearce) seeks to discover how her brother Jake (Scott Cherry) died, only because she thinks he may have cheated her. Duckett (Allan Corduner), whose company is the object of the takeover, proclaims his prudent corporate management, including personnel layoffs.

Old-school-tie Greville Todd (Mr. Corduner), Scilla and Jake's father, merely rues the rude invasion by lesser breeds of his once privileged and protected world.

Characters like uncouth corporate raider Billy Corman (Daniel Webb), American arbitrageur Marylou Baines (Linda Bassett), Ghanaian importer Nigel Ajibala (Burt Cae-sar), American banker ``Zack'' Zackerman (Paul Moriarty), and Peruvian businesswoman Jacinta Condor (Meera Syal) are merely typical wolves in wolf's clothing. Greed is their common bond, acquisitiveness their driving force, and Ivan Boesky their beau ideal.

At its most manic, which is fairly often, ``Serious Money'' operates with a self-generating energy worthy of the ``Big Bang,'' the government deregulation of the London stock market which sets everything in motion. The setting (replete with busy-busy phone banks and nervous computer screens) and costumes were designed by Peter Hartwell, with lighting by Rick Fisher.

About these ads

Music and lyrics for the occasional choruses were written by Ian Dury, Micky Gallagher, and Chas Jankel.

While Miss Churchill's raunchy depiction of the world of arbitrageurs and white knights may prove beyond the comprehension and/or taste of some playgoers, its slice of financial life has earned the seal of audience approval in London.

It has been the biggest hit in Royal Court Theatre history, has moved to the West End, and has proved particularly popular with the financial community, whose world it mercilessly lampoons.

``Serious Money'' begins previews at Broadway's Royale Theatre Jan. 18 with an American cast for an official opening sometime in February.

Real Estate Play by Louise Page. Directed by Brian Murray. Starring Sada Thompson, Roberta Maxwell, Charles Cioffi, Lewis Arlt.

A prodigal daughter returns home after a 20-year absence and gradually subverts the domestic tranquillity achieved by her mother and stepfather in Louise Page's ``Real Estate,'' at the Theatre at Saint Peter's Church.

Strong-willed Jenny (Roberta Maxwell) disappeared as a teen-ager after a disciplinary incident and has resolutely avoided any family contact throughout the long interval.

A wanted but out-of-wedlock pregnancy brings the young woman back to the security of the little house on the outskirts of London from which her mother, Gwen (Sada Thompson), operates a modest real estate agency. The resulting complexities also involve Dick (Charles Cioffi), Gwen's second husband, and Eric (Lewis Arlt), the father-to-be of Jenny's child. Although he has been divorced and would like to marry Jenny, Eric must also deal with the resentments of the 10-year-old daughter, to whom he is devoted.

Jenny's sudden reentry into the lives of her mother and stepfather provides the central dilemma of ``Real Estate.'' Having found her way home to a comforting security, she is soon staking a claim to partnership in Gwen's real estate business.

Miss Page solves the conflict with an unhappy ending that is both ironic and contrived.

Many of the pleasures of ``Real Estate'' derive from its delicate attention to incidental details: Dick and Eric's forays into cookery; the brief but alarming escape of the offstage family dog from its confines; the subtext of unspoken thoughts behind spoken words; the use of familiar props, from family photographs to teddy bears. Page prepares for showdowns by keeping her characters on emotional tenterhooks.

Carefully guided by director Brian Murray, the well-attuned cast works its way with assurance through the author's carefully arranged emotional thickets.

Desmond Heeley's setting as lighted by John Michael Deegan creates a shadowy perspective beyond the bright confines of Gwen's pleasant little house.

Muriel Stockdale designed the contemporary costumes.

John Beaufort covers New York theater for the Monitor.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.