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Theater 2013-14: Shattered Globe puts deposit on edgy season with ‘Other People’s Money’

Submitted by on Aug 23, 2013 – 2:49 pm

Fifth in a series of season previews: Playwright Jerry Sterner’s comic spin on a ruthless business takeover will share Shattered Globe’s schedule with a prison drama and a soul-searching tragedy.

By Lawrence B. Johnson

The stuff of Shattered Globe Theatre’s season planning might be described as polar opposites: The issues that concern us all and the issues that pull as apart. Perfectly matched to that conflicted perspective is the company’s 22nd season opener, the double-edged comedy of Jerry Sterner’s “Other People’s Money.” 

“It’s a romance at the center of a play that has some teeth,” says Shattered Globe artistic director Roger Smart of this wry drama, which opened in New York in 1989 and then became a hit movie in 1991 starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck.

“While it’s entertaining on many levels, you leave the theater with some important things to think about – in this case, making money without regard for the human consequences.”

That sort of provocative mix is the engine that drives Shattered Globe, says Smart.

“We want to put on plays that reflect the social and philosophical diversity that lies at the heart of Chicago. Theater has to have a purpose. For me personally, there always has to be a significance beyond entertainment – a substance that confronts the things people wrestle with in their daily lives.”

And therein lies the essence of the company’s intriguing name.

“One of the things we talk about as an ensemble is reclaiming this globe we live on,” says Smart, “presenting plays that, in showing our commonality, seek to heal our shattered world.”

The 2013-14 season in brief:

  • “Other People’s Money” by Jerry Sterner (Sept. 5-Oct. 19): Exploring the scurrilous and duplicitous side of business entrepreneurship, as a small company faces a hostile takeover at the hands of a ruthless businessman, “Other People’s Money” offers an up-close portrait of oily, conniving and yet strangely appealing “takeover artist” Lawrence Garfinkle, who will let nothing stop him from gaining control of New England Wire and Cable. At once corporate critique and romantic comedy, Sterner’s play taps into the manipulation, greed and perhaps unexpected humanity of the business world. “While ‘Other People’s Money’ doesn’t address the collapse of banking,” says Smart, “it takes a hard look at the mentality of a man whose driving desire is to make money, and who’s willing to decimate a community to achieve his purpose. In that regard, the plays is very relevant today.” Directing will be Dennis Zacek, artistic director emeritus of Victory Gardens.
  • “Our Country’s Good” by Timberlake Wertenbaker, adapted from Thomas Keneally’s 1987 novel “The Playmaker” (Jan. 9-Feb. 22, 2014): In 1789, in the most remote British penal colony in Australia, a group of inmates and one of their overseers unite to produce a play. As the inmates rehearse for the upcoming production, light is shed on the class system of the colony, relationships between the incarcerated and the officers tasked with policing them, and the effect of art on a prison population. Our Country’s Goodpremiered in 1988 at London’s Royal Court Theatre, and its subsequent Broadway run brought six Tony Award nominations. The play was remounted in London this year to mark the 25th anniversary of its debut. British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker is an adviser to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. “The characters are at first really quite unattractive,” says Smart, who will direct, “but then we get to know them and to discover what they’ve done and why they are there. The play could be set in any major city today, where one class of people is effectively imprisoned by poverty and social attitudes.”
  • “Mill Fire” by Sally Nemeth (April 24June 7, 2014): In late 1970s Birmingham, AL, the city mourns the loss of several factory workers in a tragic accident. Yet widow Marlene refuses both the pressure to grieve as convention dictates and the gesture of compensation offered by the mill’s owners. With an ever-shifting backdrop that shapes the story through flashback and memory, a Greek chorus of fellow widows, and emotionally charged familial subplots, “Mill Fire” examines the many definitions of sorrow and the complexities of moving on. Chicago native Sally Nemeth’s play opened in New York in 1989 after its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre. “Mill Fire” will be directed by Sandy Shinner, who proposed the play to Smart and the Shattered Globe ensemble. “When we held a reading, it caught everyone’s imagination,” says Smart. “It’s character- and relationship-driven, and deals with vital issues of responsibility: Who started the fire? A Greek chorus of women comment on and give context to what’s happening in the play.”

Getting there:

All three of Shattered Globe’s 2013-14 productions will be presented at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in the Lakeview neighborhood. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the Belmont stop on the Red Line.

Related Links:

Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: That sly Ben Franklin is the entrepreneur’s best friend. Descending: Shattered Globe artistic director Roger Smart. Poster for the 1991 film “Other People’s Money” starring Danny DeVito. Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker. Playwright Sally Nemeth. Theatre Wit, where Shattered Globe will present its 2013-14 season. 

 

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