Early on in Erik Eisenberg's new drama, The Arrangement, one
gets faint, but persistent, feelings of deja vu. Its story of insider trading and stock manipulation in a Wall Street PR agency has a recognizable ring, the characters (and the actors portraying them) are all vaguely familiar, and the double-dealing machinations and constantly shifting allegiances are as cutting-edge as a made-for-TV movie.
That said, The Arrangement at Vital Theatre Company is nevertheless a very entertaining evening. Eisenberg's dialog crackles with Mamet-like flair, he dispenses pertinent background information without calling undue attention to its expository nature, and if the subject matter (and his treatment of it) isn't groundbreaking, the script is well-written, logical, and beautifully performed.
Under Laura M. Stevens's smooth, fluid direction, the cast assembled for the production could not be bettered. Each actor gave fully realized performances of subtle depth and clarity, and the evening built and sustained a tension that was all the more remarkable considering the predictability of the unfolding drama. As the PR agent with a conscience, Rick Bank nimbly glossed over all of the pitfalls inherent in his role, delivering a first-class performance of clear, gut-wrenching honesty, while Jennifer Jiles as the wet-behind-her-ears lawyer determined to destroy him was more than his match. They were given admirable support from Jack Green as a crooked PR agent, and especially Peter Waldren, heart-breaking as a scientist whose potentially cancer-curing discovery sets the whole plot in motion.
The production design - black-and-white sets, lighting (Obadiah Savage), and costumes (Staci Shember), with only the barest hints of color- added to the overall effect with its topnotch concept (nothing in the drama is as cut and dried - or as black and white - as it appears to be), and terrific level of finish. Bill Grady's sound design was also topnotch, succeeding in giving the production a sharp, nervous edge that supported and enhanced everyone else's work.
While The Arrangement (there must be a better title than that, by the way) is not a prime example of theatre on the cutting edge, it is a sterling example of a contemporary "well-made" play, given a stylish, vital (no pun intended) production. Kudos to all.
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita