by JK Clarke
There is probably no greater period to have worked on Wall Street than from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s (until around 2009, 2010). The era was marked by radical shifts in technology and culture, not to mention catastrophe and scandal, the likes of which had never been seen before and hopefully will never occur again. Chris Foley, who wrote and performs Off the Desk: Tales of a Mediocre Stockbroker at C.O.W., worked on Wall Street in several different firms in this period, and it’s the story of his life during those years.
Foley, a rather affable guy (qualities that are the most compelling in this one man show) begins his tale explaining how he ended up in the brokerage business, a not terribly unfamiliar tale for kids growing up in Long Island: observing neighbors who made great money on Wall Street, his hard-working parents pushed him into it, assuring him that making money was the pathway to happiness and early retirement. It doesn’t take long
before we realize that simply doesn’t apply to Foley. His passions lie in the arts, particularly in acting and music. Heavy metal music, to be more precise. Foley air guitars Metallica riffs (and the like) between scenes, punctuating moments with rocking intensity, ripping off his tie or completely removing his white collared shirt. The symbolism is right on the nose.
Though we follow Foley from his moderately rebellious days as a frat boy (who revels in his moment as a heavy metal karaoke DJ) at Dartmouth through several broker jobs, we never get a very close look at his personal life. And while his story is not unappealing or uninteresting, one can’t help but walk away with the feeling that an opportunity was missed. He mentions relationships with women, but never delves deeply; we know that he experienced 9/11 very much first hand, and while a re-hashing of that day’s experience isn’t exactly necessary, we never get an idea of the impact it had on his life; nor do we get a very deep look at how the banking failures of 2008 impacted him or his attitude about Wall Street in general. We do see, peripherally, the impact these things must have had: excessive drinking and drug use force him into changing his career path for good. But there’s no deep connection. Which is a shame, because it would be refreshing to hear such tales from an individual as conscientious as Foley.
Where Foley scores, however, is in capturing some of the personalities in the firms where he works. From the condescending, misogynist, foul-mouthed bigots who define the territory (just take a look at the Scorcese film, The Wolf of Wall Street for confirmation) to the more genteel, working-class, older, Italian-Americans who would seem more at home in construction work, Foley nails the imitations and perfectly captures their demeanors. Director Padraic Lillis would do well to push Foley away from mere caricatures and more into deeper storytelling, which is the hallmark of a superior one-man show. Nonetheless, Foley is a compelling raconteur and he provides an entertaining evening telling tales of Wall Street.
Off the Desk: Tales of a Mediocre Stockbroker. Saturday nights, 8PM, through November 21 at Celebration of Whimsy (C.O.W. – 21Clinton Street, between Stanton and Rivington). www.OfftheDeskShow.com