As a latter day Jim Cramer, CJ (Michael Yates Crowley) hosts “Righteous Money,” a blinged-up version of Cramer’s own Mad Money. The audience sits amidst the trappings of a TV studio (a monitor, a camera, and references to an off-stage producer), but the events taking place on stage would have any TV show cut off within minutes. The conceit falls through almost immediately, and from there on out Righteous Money (also the title of the play) is hard to take seriously.
There’s no throughline of sociopathy in Crowley’s character, thanks to a bizarre breakdown that includes his confessing to an one-night-stand-with-some-meaning-thrown-in with one of the interns. Not for a moment did I believe any of CJ’s confessions regarding having true feelings for “Nathan,” the intern, and given the enormous dose of self-confidence Crowley has given his character, there were times when director Michael Rau could have brought greater depth to the material – for example (and not that I was hankering for nudity), after CJ spends time bragging about his physical appearance and noting the fact that he sleeps naked, why does he only strip to his boxers when spanking himself for the camera? This lack of logic extends to things like CJ’s producer allowing him to remain on the air, and even to the sort of things he says while railing against his assistant. His “freakout” may be realistic, but it fails at providing a cogent dramatic through-line to the play.
CJ’s philosophy of money is entertaining – he wants his audience to have access to what he calls “righteous” money – money they deserve, and money beyond what they dream possible – but his repeated references to a non-present “woman guest” Suze Orman soon grow tired.
Righteous Money features a rich topic, perfect (metatextual) timing, and a lead performer who we very much want to like. In the end, though, it never quite achieves liftoff.
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