Regional Reviews: New Jersey
The Great God Money: Comedy with Music Gains Relevance with Economic Collapse
Fortunately for area theatergoers, author Emily Davis has come over to our side of the Hudson to direct The Great God Money for New Jersey's perky Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre. It is an ideal fit for this actors' theatre. The play even provides room for Dreamcatcher, which has its own comedy troupe (Multiple Personality Disorder), to add a dollop of delightful improvisation.
Davis has based her play on L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. Young Dot is the most dissatisfied of the grousing employees at a Federal Bank who are arguing about money. Dot sings that she works for money to survive. When she adds that money can't buy love, the accountant says that not only is that bull----, but that money can also buy security, acceptance and power. In short order, there is a blackout and the sound of a bang. When the lights come up, Dot finds herself in Lucreland, penniless and alone. Present is "A," an accountant-toll collector. He tells her that she has to go to see The Great God Money in Chingchingland in order to get money. However, she has to figure out how to start her journey because "all the roads to money have some sort of a toll."
Of course, Dot will follow the yellow brick road, picking up companions along the way. Everyone whom she encounters will be played by one of her co-workers starting with that "A" accountant-type fella. Initially, she meets the rivals Cash, a sharp Bob Fosse style dancer who advises her to seek money in order to find happiness, and Cora, a folksy type who tells her to follow her heart. On the road, Davis' Dot's companions are a addled couple, Gimmee Moore and his lady Nat Moore, who formerly worked for The Great God Money, but were not paid all that they were due. They are beset by a rampaging dragon who devours whatever money they are able to acquire along the way. They prove more mercenary and less loyal than we would expect. It's the 21st century, so Dot must travel several video game lands which she has to figure out how to traverse. At one point, Dot comes to Comfortville where she is allowed to stay where she is at first happy with leisure, food, food and good weather. Cora explains to her that at death it is not enough to look back at a life that only consisted of comfort and that it also incurs tremendous debt acquisition.
Jessica O'Hara-Baker is an engaging, vital Dot. She brings a lilting light soprano to the inconsequential but often pleasing score. Scott McGowan (Cash), Laura Ekstrand (Cora), Harry Patrick Christian (Gimmee), Noreen Farley (Nat), David Miceli ("A"), and Janet Sales (Homeless Person) perform multiple roles. They make for a bright and breezy, well tuned and synchronized ensemble.
Witty dialogue concerning the nature of money abounds. A good deal of it is wise, some of it is nonsense. A scary amount is simultaneously both. Dialogue questioning the artificiality of the basis for the post gold standard value which we place on our money and as to whether we might find it stolen from us by the powers that be by devaluation resonate despite the jocular nature of play and performance.
The Great God Money performed from March 6 22, 2009 at the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre at the Baird Center, 5 Mead Street, South Orange, NJ 07079. Box Office: 973-378-7754 , ext. 2228; online: www.dreamcatcherrep.org.
The Great God Money written and directed by Emily Davis (with music by Dmitri Kalmar and Ms. Davis and added songs by Barry Gribble and Ben Morss)