Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Martin F. Kohn
“I never cared about the money,” the fictionalized Bernie Madoff says in “Imagining Madoff.” “…It was the movement.”
It’s the same thing problem gamblers say: It was never about the money, what was addictive was the action. In Deborah Margolin’s cerebral, intriguing rumination about the biggest swindle in history, the addiction reaches far, affecting even a deep-thinking, profoundly religious writer and Holocaust survivor (also fictionalized, although based on Elie Wiesel).
Ironically, the play itself is devoid of action – it’s all talk, which creates a challenge for anyone who would stage it. Director Yolanda Fleischer overcomes that challenge in her Jewish Ensemble Theatre production with a top-of-the-line cast – B.J. Love as Madoff, Robert Grossman as writer/Holocaust survivor Solomon Galkin and Sandra Birch as Madoff’s secretary – and an eye-popping set by Donald Robert Fox.
Symbolizing some of the things Margolin is saying in her intensively metaphorical drama, the set features towers of books, some ceiling-high, some lower, placed strategically about the stage. They might represent Madoff’s prison bars, Galkin’s voracious reading and prodigious writing, or, piled higher than books can be stacked safely, a financial empire about to tumble.
Margolin piles high the metaphors in her script, invoking everything from fishing, to baseball, to crumbled cookies. The baseball conceit is especially piquant, as Grossman’s Galkin waxes lyrical about Dwight Gooden, a stellar New York Mets pitcher of a few years back, waiting to mow down “the next poor dreamer” stepping up to the plate. (Unspoken, but known by serious baseball followers, is that Gooden himself was undone by addictions.)
Grossman, absent from Detroit stages for the past few years, makes a welcome return, bringing out the more playful aspects of the wise and dignified man of letters, as well as his scholarly piety, and becoming downright fawning as he begs Madoff to take him on as a client.
As Madoff, Love is unflinching in his bitterness, resentment and lack of remorse.
As the unnamed secretary, testifying before the Securities and Exchange Commission, Birch is the closest thing to the audience’s representative. Her argument that she never knew what was going on is believable, but her regret and sense of guilt are authentic. One leaves the theater thinking that even if we’re not sure why, we should all feel at least a little sorry for allowing Bernie Madoff to happen.
‘ Imagining Madoff ‘
Jewish Ensemble Theatre at Aaron DeRoy Theatre, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield. Thursday, Saturday & Sunday through Nov. 13, plus Wednesday, Nov. 9. $36-43. 248-788-2900. http://www.jettheatre.org