[Note: This is a review of the 2012 production of Serious Money. PTP/NYC has now brought it back for a return engagement, with some of the same cast.]
How much have things changed in the lowdown world of high finance? Caryl Churchill’s anticorporate raid, Serious Money, may now be 25 years old, but that’s just the tip of the Titanic-sinking iceberg. Churchill begins her trenchantly witty play with a snippet of Thomas Shadwell’s similarly themed The Volunteers (or Stockjobbers), written some 200 years earlier, and boldly extends this conceit by putting nearly the entire script in rhyming verse. Imagine a cross between Lucy Prebble’s Enron and David Hirson’s La Bête, and you’ll begin to get a sense of Churchill’s rococo mix of restoration comedy, Thatcher-catcher satire and London murder mystery.
Even under ideal conditions, Serious Money is staggeringly hard to pull off—the 1988 Broadway version starred Alec Baldwin and Kate Nelligan and still closed in two weeks—and PTP/NYC’s revival is in no sense ideal. Buried in the basement space at Atlantic Stage 2, this is a barely glorified college production, performed by a cast that is game but mostly subprofessional. (Nearly all of the actors are Middlebury students or alumni.) The key roles, at least, are essayed by seasoned actors, and some do fine work, including Alex Draper and Megan Byrne as predatory traders, and Brent Langdon as an old-school banker whose clubby financial world is being usurped by litters of piggy young oiks. (Jeanne LaSala Taylor adds welcome verve as an over-the-top Peruvian spitfire.) But Cheryl Faraone’s staging never achieves the tautness Churchill’s noose requires. Serious Money is a valuable commodity, and PTP/NYC sells it short.—Adam Feldman
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