Madoff as muse Edgy play hits a nerve portraying schemer
In 2008, thousands of investors learned that billions of their life savings had gone up in smoke, as the largest Ponzi scheme in history finally collapsed.
The reviled mastermind of that scheme Discount Newport 100S Cigarettes, Bernard Madoff, is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina. But the wounds Madoff inflicted are fresh in the minds of his victims and his crimes continue to resonate loudly in the consciousness of a country now wrapped up in an intensifying debate over income inequality Online Newport Cigarette Store.
Enter "Imagining Madoff," a three-character play by Deb Margolin that dares to look deep into the mind of one of the most hated men in America. The play, which stars Robert Rutland as Madoff, Ellen Horst as a secretary in his defunct firm and Saul Elkin as one of his many prominent victims, opens Thursday in the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, the Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York's new home in Getzville's Jewish Community Center.
Elkin, who co-founded the JRT with David Bunis and serves as its artistic director, attended a reading of the play last year and was immediately taken with the play's ripped-from-the-headlines currency and Margolin's edgy approach. Margolin, as Elkin stressed, is not going for biographical detail, but rather projecting her own suppositions into her characters' thought processes.
The playwright's tendency to add intriguing bits of extra-biographical detail got her in trouble with the first version of the play Buy Newport Cigarettes Wholesale, which included a character based explicitly on Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Madoff victim whose charitable foundation and personal savings were wiped out by the scheme. But after Wiesel threatened to sue Margolin for what he'd dubbed an "obscene" portrayal, she gave the character a fictional name and rewrote him as a more general portrait of Madoff's high-profile victims.
Elkin, who plays the character of Solomon Galkin -- like Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and poet -- said he thinks the change benefited the play overall.
"I think it's stronger when it's generalized," Elkin said. "It was very individualized when it was Wiesel, and touching, but a lot of that has been included in this character He's not only a Holocaust survivor and a poet, but the trustee of a synagogue. A lot has been loaded into this character."
In addition to its obvious relevance -- given the continuing barrage of headlines about Madoff's victims and the widespread knowledge of his epic scheme Cheap Cartons Of Cigarettes, the play also contains some unexpected and unplanned overtones that Elkin said adds to its universality and appeal.
In one scene, Madoff and Galkin talk about the biblical story of Abraham, who according to the Old Testament was ordered by God to murder his son Isaac as a test of faith, only to be instructed to spare him at the last moment.