Arts & Events

New Theater Company Plays "Other People's Money" at Kehila in Oakland

By Our Correspondent
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:09:00 PM

Piedmont and Oakland has a new theatre company—the Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre 

John McMullen has been writing theatre reviews for The Berkeley Daily Planet for three years. 

And now he has gone and started his own. 

You can find them on the web at www.PiedmontOaklandRep.ORG 

They are now playing “Other People’s Money: The Ultimate Seduction” by Jerry Sterner’s which is described as a “sexy, funny, dark comedy about Corporate Raiders on the loose!” at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. 

“Three years of watching plays taught me a lot about what’s effective, what’s not, and why,” McMullen said. “I got an MFA from Carnegie-Mellon, but my most informative post-grad education has been being a theatre critic for the Berkeley Daily Planet.” 

“Theatre abhors a vacuum,” McMullen continued. “This metropolis and its neighboring community had no live semi-pro theatre. I live near Piedmont Ave & Grand Ave., and it seemed like the demography would support a theatre. Lots of coffee houses, bookstore, middle-aged bohemian boomers who fit the profile of the folks I’ve seen at the theatre over the past few years. ” 

Finding a place to play was challenging for the company. They had originally set their sights on a venue on Piedmont Ave—a storefront that would advertise itself by its presence on the popular and well-traveled street. However, there was no one who would or could rent to a non-profit group and the rents were astronomical for a new theatre group. 

Luckily, the Kehilla Community Synagogue opened their doors to them. Situated almost on the Piedmont-Oakland line, across from the Grand Ave Ace Hardware (a landmark everyone seems to know), they offered space for rehearsals, performances, and theatre classes for a reasonable rent. 

And so a name change from Piedmont Avenue Rep to Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre was made. 

“It’s the most ecumenical place I’ve ever seen. The Coptic Church has their services there on Sunday. The rabbi has a theatre background. It is a bustling community center…I was told Kehilla means ‘community’ in Hebrew.” McMullen added. 

“Other People’s Money” plays through April 12 with early show times: Thu 7 pm, Fri & Sat 7:30, Sun 5 pm. (but no performances on Friday March 21 & April 4) at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont (cross street Oakland Ave.). 

The play won the Best Off-Broadway Play Award in 1989, and was reviewed by New York Magazine’s uber-critic John Simon as, “Funny, serious, suspenseful, involving, disturbing, and above all, expertly crafted...Epic grandeur and intimate titillation combined. It is the most stimulating kind of entertainment." 

Carl Icahn, the iconic corporate raider whose photo was on TIME magazine last December, and who is mentioned in the play, was quoted, “Some of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard…some of which I now use myself.” 

The cast is John Hale who plays Garfield, the obese, lecherous, gluttonous, avaricious, charming, and funny New Yorker who comes to buy, chop and sell the wire and cable mill that supports a small community which is owned by Jorgenson, played by Keith Jefferds. Karly Shea plays Kate, a sexy lawyer who battles Garfield at the behest of her mother, Jorgenson’s lover, played by Susannah Wood. Brett Mermer plays the company manager Cole, who is caught between the adversaries, and is concerned for his own future. Understudy for Bea is Elizabeth Jane Dunne. All actors, except the new addition of Jefferds, were featured in the group’s inaugural production of The Dining Room at the Piedmont Center for the Arts in November and earl December. 

“We are very lucky to have a great board of directors,” McMullen concluded. “Our President is Don Cate, who ran the CCSF Theatre Tech Department and was chair until his retirement; Regina Cate, who was th costume professor at CSU/EB is our secretary; Judith L. Bloom, CPA and past treasurer of Berkeley Symphony; Ann Higgins who is a fabulous designer ( who did the graphic above; Attorney Henry Epstein who is an administrative judge; and Delia Violante who works at Boalt Law School, box officer and who does a marvelous job with social media.” 

The play derives its title from Louis Brandeis’ famous series of articles in Harper’s Weekly in 1914—two years before he became a Supreme Court Justice—on how the large banking houses were colluding with businessmen to create trusts in America's major industries. “The articles were collected in book form and published under the title ‘Other People's Money—and How the Bankers Use It’” (quoted from Louis Brandeis School of Law). 

Tickets are $25 at www.PiedmontOaklandRep.ORG or 1-800-838-3006