Written by Carole Brendlinger, “Money Matters” had its world premiere on the Jewel Box stage back in 2003 after winning the theater’s 2002 playwriting competition. Eight years later, the play is back by popular demand.
Set in 1894 New York, “Money Matters” tells the farcical story of a husband and wife wedded under false pretenses, and what happens when their true intentions are revealed.
The husband, Holden Latimer, is the last remaining member of a oncewealthy family, now forced to sell off the contents of his dilapidated estate just to make due — a fact quietly, but hilariously, demonstrated as stagehands wearing Lotus Pawn shirts gradually remove items from the set.
He’s found the solution to his financial problems in Catherine, the heir to a rather large fortune, even more so with the recent death of her father. While Holden marries Catherine only for her money — although he makes a brief attempt at the relationship — it is revealed that she marries him for her money as well.
Not trusting his daughter to spend wisely, Catherine’s father had stipulated that her inheritance was to be kept from her as long as she was single. Once outed as a gold digger, Holden becomes a target of manipulation and eventually murder attempts as Catherine tries to find a way out of her marriage that will leave her in control of her inheritance.
Brendlinger’s script is a little uneven at times, but also contains some welldrawn characters, truly first-rate wordplay and fine execution of some classic comedy scenarios. Thanks to the confident direction of Don Taylor, most flaws are easy to put aside.
As Catherine, Kris Schinske is tasked with justifying some pretty wild shifts in character as she moves from wanting to please her new husband, to wanting to murder him, to eventually falling in love with him. Amazingly, Schinske sells almost every one of those transitions, reveling in Catherine’s many extremes of being, all the while presenting a unified portrait.
As Holden, Chris Briscoe is a great foil for Schinske and the rest of the cast. Despite his original despicableness, he keeps Holden likable enough to justify his redemption.
Randall Hunter steals many a scene in a wonderfully droll turn as Holden’s butler, a role he originated in 2003. Emily Mitchell is great in her flirty turn as Annie, Catherine’s spirited Irish maid. The usually strong Paul Smith gets his fair share of laughs as a senile lawyer; unfortunately, Smith’s line delivery slowed down the proceedings a bit, especially in his introductory scene. With the rest of the play proceeding at a quick pace, this scene dragged with the seemingly never-ending string of jokes built around his forgetfulness.
The costumes by Dale Morgan and Cayla Greer are solid across the board, a welcome improvement from some productions earlier this season. I don’t won’t to spoil it, but keep an eye out for some great prop and effects work in Act 2.
Despite some minor issues, “Money Matters” is one of the better-written local plays I’ve seen staged in Oklahoma City that excels, thanks to a great cast that will have you laughing out loud.