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Talk About Money

In "Talk About Money," a father and son square off about a business deal. And yet, while it's "all about business," it is, of course, all about everything else as well. Writer Bruce Goldsmith, a screenwriter and novelist presenting his first play, has a strong premise here, but it seems his idea of a play is to put two characters in a room, give them lots and lots of dialogue and not edit any of it.

With:
Father - John Saxon Son - Tom Astor

In “Talk About Money,” a father and son square off about a business deal. And yet, while it’s “all about business,” it is, of course, all about everything else as well. Writer Bruce Goldsmith, a screenwriter and novelist presenting his first play, has a strong premise here, but it seems his idea of a play is to put two characters in a room, give them lots and lots of dialogue and not edit any of it. As a result, the work drones on, and even the plot twists toward the end can’t salvage the evening.

John Saxon (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) plays a successful entrepreneur whose son (Tom Astor) has requested that he co-sign a loan. While the details of the business itself are never revealed, it doesn’t really matter; the real focus here is the father-son battle.

The business plan the son presents is basically sound, although the father won’t admit to that. As the son pleads, the father reveals himself to be a thoroughly selfish hypocrite, or, as he would argue, a very effective businessman. And toward the end, the son has a few surprises of his own, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

There are moments when it appears this play will become a character study in mania, as the dialogue keeps returning to the same lines over and over. But it’s ultimately not a psychological subtlety of the writing so much as a symptom of poorly focused plotting.

The characters talk repeatedly about “starting from page one” of the business plan (although, thankfully, they never do), use the word “deal” scores of times and seem to tread water for the first hour.

Saxon gives a strong performance as a deeply neurotic and manipulative man who constantly urges his son to beg for his help even when he clearly has no intention of giving it, but the character reveals his monstrous underbelly way too early for any later sparks to be surprising. Astor demonstrates very little personality at all.

While the set, costumes and lighting here are all slick, Asaad Kelada’s direction fails to give the play shape, although the script itself is the primary culprit. For this play to work, we need to revel in two people who know each other inside and out manipulating one another mercilessly. But the father and son relationship here seriously lacks dimension; there’s no love to balance the competition. Ultimately, what comes across is an idea of a play rather than a play itself.

Talk About Money

Tiffany Theaters; 99 seats; $32.50 top

Production: A Judy Arnold presentation of a one-act play by Bruce Goldsmith. Director, Asaad Kelada

Cast: Father - John Saxon Son - Tom AstorSet, Tom Giamario; lighting, J. Kent Inasy; costumes, Betsy Heimann; music, Don Peake. Opened Oct. 15, 1999; reviewed Oct. 23. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.

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