Business and Ethics 101

The Arrangement

By Rick Eisenberg
Directed by Harry Peerce
The 42nd Street Workshop
Equity approved showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Rick Eisenberg's The Arrangement is a resolutely old-fashioned play where plot events happen to people, rather than being the story of a group of characters and what happens to them. The subject is business success and failure, and each character will land either in the winner's circle or the glue factory - sometimes one then the other.

An earlier production was reviewed by oobr, but the play comes across as simultaneously timeless and dated. That a young hotshot businessman would get himself suckered into shady dealings is no surprise; nor is the idea that money can trump personal loyalties; nor is having his nemesis be a woman. The Enron debacle was yet to happen, but the business machinations could just as easily be any financial scandal from John D. Rockefeller until now. With a tweak or two it could take place in the '40s (starring John Garfield), or the '50s (Cornel Wilde). Eisenberg's dialogue has a literary "written," rather than naturalistic, flavor to it, and while it's a pleasure not to be talked down to, in the end it was too redolent for its own good. It was also structured with scenes being introduced with high-falutin' commentary, which kept it from unfolding on its own terms.

This kind of thing can be carried off if there is some overripe, juicily dripping dramatic acting, but director Harry Peerce didn't meld his company of four into a unified style. G.W. Reed was full of certifiable bluster as the corrupter who doesn't have to do all that much convincing to hook Tommy Walsh into his stock scheme. Although he was full of emotion, Walsh didn't make his moral dilemma matter as much as it should have. Ken Glickfeld was great in a gimmicky role - a brilliant, accented scientist (whose newly FDA-approved antibody compound is the product that sets off the plot), yet he still made "funny" mistakes speaking English. But it was Sara Wolverson who supplied the voltage as the SEC lawyer investigating the set-up. She couldn't do much with the scene intros she was burdened with, but she played the part to the hilt, adroitly maneuvering around plot holes with force of personality. The plot's denouement was surprisingly unsurprising, but she played it as if the fate of nations hung in the balance. It was just what was needed.

The physical production nicely suggested an office setting - the low cubicle walls suggested a maze for rats (set design by Peter Esmond). More care was needed in some details - a desk phone and a cell phone would not have the same ring, and that's the sort of thing that can keep you from buying into a play's milieu. Lighting didn't encompass the whole playing area, even when there was action as the edge of the stage - an office's fluorescent lighting is ubiquitous and unforgiving. (Lights and sound by Leah Tewles.) Costume styles (uncredited) were right for each character - slick style for Walsh, rumpled for Glickfeld, cutting-edge dress-for-success for Wolverson.

The Arrangement isn't Glengarry Glen Ross, but a better balance of elements might have made for a more engaging production.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler