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Righteous Money

This timely satire of the world of insider trading could benefit from a stronger production.

By New York City
Michael Yates Crowley
in Righteous Money
(© Philipp Ottendoerfer)
Michael Yates Crowley
in Righteous Money
(© Philipp Ottendoerfer)
If you like a little S&M with your investment tips, check out Righteous Money, an hour-long piece written and performed by Michael Yates Crowley, now at 3LD (and moving later this month to the Red Room). Indeed, wise viewers will catch the show, which chronicles an epic meltdown on live TV of a caustic but successful financial guru -- think of a gay, hipster version of CNBC's Jim Cramer -- immediately.

There are two reasons to rush to the theater at 3LD (where it runs only through January 6). First, it is only a few blocks from venues referenced in Crowley's script, including the former drum circles of Occupy Wall Street. But, more important, Crowley has bravely invited a German theater company called Schlosstheater Moers, to present its own -- far more compelling -- take on the show called Gerechtes Geld during the 3LD run.

On paper, Crowley serves up a timely, biting satire of the world of hedge funds and insider trading that questions what we, both as a society and as individuals, truly value. But his character, CJ, is little more than a cartoon villain whose sudden stabs of conscience as the play unfolds are never credible.

Furthermore, as an actor, Crowley doesn't demonstrate the dangerous charisma that would explain the character's grip over a vast television audience, not to mention over the unseen intern, Nathan, whose dark, sexual dalliance with CJ has morphed, off-camera and offstage, into blackmail and revenge.

By contrast, Matthias Hesse plays the German-speaking CJ as a terrifying cross between Mussolini and Matt Lucas of the British TV series Little Britain, and it's frighteningly convincing that a fellow like this would be given his own show on cable. When Hesse stares out at his audience and declares, "My time is worth more than your time," you're tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt. His mesmerizing portrayal turns a potentially shallow parody into a performance of Shakespearean proportions.

While some noticeable changes have been made by Schlosstheater Moers to Crowley's script, the most radical differences in the productions are the work of American director Matthew Rau and German director Ulrich Greb. Most notably, Greb has made Nathan an onstage presence (played by Patrick Dollas) even as CJ talks about him as though he weren't there. While it doesn't make a lot of literal sense, there is definitely method to it.


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