Scoundrals, criminals, Mamet and Jordan Lage

Jordan Lage in Other People's Money. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Jordan Lage in Other People’s Money. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

When Other People’s Money first debuted in New York in 1989 and became a cult hit, it wasn’t on Jordan Lage’s radar at all. “I was doing the reverse mirror image of this kind of play,” he recalled. He was making his Broadway debut in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, playing a baseball player and understudying a few other roles.

Lage, a founding member of Atlantic Theater Company, went on to become one of the leading interpreters of the works of David Mamet, appearing on Broadway in Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed-the-Plow, as well as attacking Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s roles at theatres all across the country.

Lawrence Garfinkle, the corporate raider at the heart of Other People’s Money, could be a cousin of Mamet’s salesmen, grifters, and con artists. “What they share in common is ruthlessness, but a kind of roguish charm. They definitely embody a male milieu that has recently found itself on the outs in American culture, and rightly so,” Lage said. “Even though they are fictional characters there are grains of truth to them, and I think that is what made them popular. There was a certain peeling back of the curtain, looking a little more in depth at these characters. When audiences were first introduced to them, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.”

The unscrupulous businessman has become an archetype in American pop culture – just think of Gordon Gekko (“Greed is good.”) in the film Wall Street. Lage has a theory about that. Criminals and scoundrels, going back to the Greeks and Shakespeare, have always made for compelling characters. The stories of their rise and fall have an inherent theatricality that people are drawn to.

Garfinkle is no different. The character became a darling of the Wall Street set when the show made its New York debut. The reception to him today could be very different. We know who these men are in a way they didn’t 30 years ago and our patience with them could be slim, Lage said.  “I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully the play’s charms and the strength of the story itself will give an entertaining evening to Long Wharf Theatre audiences,” Lage said.

-Steve Scarpa

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