In a cutthroat world of life on the trading floors, in the board rooms of London, in the 1980’s, some are ambitious enough to commit murder and others are eager to solve the mystery. After a sellout run, in the 80’s, in London, Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money transferred to a successful run at The Public Theater, then later to a short run on Broadway which starred Alec Baldwin. Serious Money is an ambitious slate that is highly theatrical and exceptionally tricky to stage as it is very demanding for both the cast and audience. The rhyming couplets, the spinning puns, and wisecracks, is what makes the play more intricate. The play could’ve felt like a brilliant and successful financial deal. However the production was staged in a way that made the play feel like it was trying to combine many different things that didn’t mesh well together. The uneven and awkward direction of the play, made it feel like the director had hit a wall and couldn’t come up with another resolution. Despite the well written script, the skillful use of the set, and some great performances, the overall production felt scattered.
The play examines men and women who attempt to manipulate their worlds and the people around them. The play takes place after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s influence on the markets led to the act that is referred to as the “Big Bang.” A murder is the focus of the play and protagonist, Scilla Todd, is eager to solve the mystery of her scheming brother, Jake Todd’s, sudden death. Along the way she crosses paths with an array of greedy and deviant people that includes audacious Zack Zackerman. As the play unravels, Scilla’s interest in Jake’s death takes a back seat when she discovers the payouts Jake had been receiving after he made a deal with a man for capital takeover. Her motive wasn’t to take revenge but to grab her share of income Jake was reaping.
Tara Giordano’s portrayal of clear-eyed Scilla was sharp and scene stealing. Her character’s greedy drive was impeccably tempered by her sweet demeanor. Every time she was on stage she owned the challenge she was given with a saucy flair. David Barlow’s portrayal of Zack Zackerman was tastefully smug. Though his character is vivaciously rapacious, he carries those qualities with a sense of likeability. Jeanne LaSala Taylor is riveting as the Peruvian, businesswoman, Jacinta Condor. The set design cleverly makes use of the limited space by making the environment a little more vibrant. The themes in Serious Money are as relevant as ever. This production, by the Potomac Theater Project, had the potential of making Serious Money just as great as its first run in the 80’s, but falls just short of it.
Serious Money runs at Atlantic Stage 2 through July 29th. For more info and to purchase tickets, please visit http://ptpnyc.org/.