Money, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, at the Storefront Theater. Social reformer and unmitigated dandy Edward Bulwer-Lytton may have been a prolific, popular, and influential author in his day: he gave Dickens the ending to Great Expectations, and Mary Shelley called him “a magnificent writer.” But today he’s a literary joke, best known for the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Born into privilege, he earned great wealth from his prodigious oeuvre yet railed against the separation of rich and poor; in his 1840 play Money he put his liberal outrage to quaint, creaky use.
Studious, virtuous Alfred Evelyn, secretary to his scheming, social-climbing cousin, is treated as so much garbage by everyone around him–until he inherits an immense fortune. Suddenly tradesmen, politicians, aristocrats, and relations fawn all over him. When it appears his wealth has vanished, they spurn him once again. Bulwer-Lytton complicates matters with three obstacle-laden love affairs and many attempted witticisms–most of which fall flat. But his social satire, the play’s reason for being, is too thin to fuel five acts.
James Bohnen directs a fine cast led by the charismatic Raymond Fox as Evelyn, and this is a smartly paced, handsomely designed production. But for all the talent assembled, Money remains a starchy museum piece that offers only the most obvious observations on human nature.