Danny DeVito does a very entertaining star turn as a delicious personification of the greedy and heartless 1980s, but there is a softening of Jerry Sterner’s biting theatrical success and problematic casting.
First produced in 1987 and launched on a long run off-Broadway two years later with Kevin Conway and Mercedes Ruehl in the leads, acidly comic play effectively illustrated the vulnerability of old-fashioned virtues embodied in family-run, locally owned companies when preyed upon by takeover vultures looking for asset-rich firms.
Bigtime Wall Street operator Lawrence Garfield (DeVito) sets his sights on a venerable old company run by folksy ‘Jorgy’ Jorgenson (Gregory Peck) amid the beautiful turning leaves of Rhode Island. Jorgy is inclined to ignore the threat but is convinced to call in Kate Sullivan (Penelope Ann Miller), a sharp young lawyer and daughter of his longtime assistant and companion (Piper Laurie).
Winning the game is the bottom line for the wily Larry, but he is also extremely taken with the foxy, deliberately provocative Kate, and the two perform a teasing tango in which he holds the upper hand in biz smarts, but she holds the sexual reins. Constant maneuvers and one-upsmanship ploys constitute good, peppery drama, and the strongly etched settings, both in Manhattan and New England, provide a vivid backdrop for this drama of capitalistic conflict.
Peck and Laurie give perfectly good performances. More crucially, Miller comes off about 10 years too young to play Kate. She looks more like a law student than an experienced corporate attorney.