What it's about.
A cautionary and very real tale of corporate espionage, lackeys, and insider trading. It made me think about how money runs the world. What are the costs of ruling the financial world?
Today was freezing. When I left the house, it was already dark out. On the way to the theater, I started stressing over whether I would get there on time. Turns out, I made it half an hour early. I was so glad that I made it half an hour early because it gave me a chance to walk around the Lincoln Center complex. Let me tell you, Lincoln Center at night is a sight to behold. The lights made me feel as if I had just stepped into a movie.
I had been looking forward to watching this play for a long time. Coming in, I knew that it was a tale of Robert Merkin, a notable financier. I came in thinking that this was just another production to enjoy but it ended up being more than that, it was very meaningful to me. Yes, it was a little chaotic but that was on purpose. I felt like the show was structured in a way that made it easy to follow the chaos. The play consisted mostly of phone conversations where the caller would appear on the stage and the recipient would appear to be standing on one of the pedestals on stage. That setup made it easy for me to make the connection of how one person was tied to another and how the blackmailing, manipulation, and forcefulness was used for self-benefit. The shift in setting, conversation, and environment gave me a sense of the influence of power and greed and the toll that it can take on someone. It is a reminder to me to always stay humble and never let the temptation of power go to my head.
In the beginning, I had difficulty understanding why Robert Merkin was a villain. It was a typical Mergers and Acquisitions deal - he was going to take over Everson steel because the company was going under. The acquisition of Everson steel by Merkin's company was just a business opportunity. As the story progressed, I realized that Merkin was a white collar criminal, he went through a variety of illegal means to ensure the acquirement of Everson steel. He gave specific directions to his clients to raise the stock price of the company through investing in portions (stock manipulation) and had an arrangement with a mobster where he split the earnings 50/50 with Merkin if he chose to go in on a deal. The Fed was hot on his trail and in the end, Merkin was charged with counts of white collar crime (about three hundred if I remember correctly) but was able to work out a plea bargain with the Attorney General... who had intentions of running for Congressman and needed funding. Merkin's sentence was cut to two years and he walked away with millions. This just goes to show how power can be wielded and how corruption trumps vulnerability.
What really struck me throughout this play was that Merkin thought he was the good guy, a Robin Hood of sorts. In his eyes, he was "stealing" from the rich, from the businessmen who were "made", and "giving" the money from the takeover to his clients. I started wondering why there was anything wrong with that. The problem, though, was really how that was achieved... through blackmail, insider trading, and organized crime. In the end, I decided that he was a villain.
I guess it really is up to you though, whether to label him as a hero or a villain.
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