Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival XV
Review by Rannie McCants
With an influx of witty dialogue and economical debate, Long Division by James Presson reforms Shakespeare’s King Lear into a contemporary piece on greedy Wall Street bankers. Lights up on the wealthiest 1% amidst the Occupy Wall Street protesters, their stone cold faces are unmoved by the angry American protesters. In a moment’s time, they retreat to their Upper East Side apartment to discuss the importance of capitalism over champagne glasses.
Although it’s been only a few years since the Occupy Wall Street protests ended, the movement already seems to be a distant memory. The laundry list of grievances with no plan or leader left the wealthy untouched, as this modern take shows us. These four of the wealthiest self-congratulate and bask in their riches, but deep down their greed still claws for more.
Anne Bates, portraying Meryl, controls the stage with her excellent execution of Presson’s script. “I like the idea of poor people,” she jokes. The Queen Bee in the family, being the oldest of three daughters, Meryl is married to Allen (Ben Diserens), the senior executive in her dying father’s company, and although she doesn’t work in finance, she’s certainly in the center of the business. Meryl wants it all; money, sex, and power. Her affair with her middle sister’s fiancé Cody (Zak Risinger), an equal partner in the company upon her father’s passing, puts her in the position to have everything—that’s if things go according to plan.
In a fit of anxiety, the overzealous Allen calls youngest and estranged sister Cordelia into the mix. Meryl’s dramatic foil arrives with a fresh new hippie attitude and streaks of colored locks. It is Allen’s intention for Cordelia, or Corie, to become a silent partner in the company giving him two-thirds majority, but Meryl knows how incapable she is of silence.
Emily Tarpey, portraying Corie, encapsulates the kind and gentle, yet strong qualities of this character so effortlessly. Presson created a character with so much compassion and grace—a natural born leader of the people. Tarpey played the hell out of the sharp-tongued fire starter ready to overthrow the people upholding the status quo, even if they’re her own family.
Like King Lear, this play had twists and turns, deceit, lust, and greed. Since the turns were so extreme and undeniably humorous, I often wondered if the piece should be labeled a satire. The family members were all caricatures and surely extreme versions of a typical Wall Street family. The structure of the piece introduces an unconventional protagonist, Meryl, as America’s villain and the antagonist, Corie, as their savior.
Long Division, skillfully directed by Marc Connor Eardley, was thought-provoking and current, especially when it came to its use of technology. The main plot is solid and the actors are electrifying. Long Divison will be playing on July 22 @ 6:00 PM and July 26 @ 5:00 PM at the June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th Street.