Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar is back with a new work called "Junk," which premiered at Lincoln Center on Thursday night. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
The world of high finance is fodder for great drama. From the film "Wall Street" to the current series "Billions," it's easy to make villains out of the mercenary capitalists who'll do anything for an extra buck. "Junk" is another entry in the genre. There's really nothing in this play that we haven't seen before, but it's a slick, highly polished work with the not so subtle message that greed is not good!
"Junk" refers to speculative junk bonds that enable investors to raise quick cash at a high risk. The gamble is that they can default just as easily as yield a high rate of return. If this makes little sense, you might have a problem with the play. It's about two-and-a-half hours of jargon-filled dialogue spouted at breakneck speed.
Playwright Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for his much smaller work "Disgraced," but with "Junk," he fully establishes himself as an extremely insightful writer with an uncanny ability to synthesize our darkest impulses.
Set in 1985, Robert Merkin is an unscrupulous bond trader who's pushing a deal to finance the hostile takeover of a Pennsylvania steel company. The well-intentioned owner, Tom Everson, refuses to sell, knowing that it would mean his longtime employees would all lose their jobs. He seeks financial help from Leo Tresler, seen as a morally flawed white knight.
Akhtar writes crisply, injecting enough nuance to make each of the 22 characters come alive. And given such a large company, director Doug Hughes has quite a challenge simply directing traffic. But for all the insidery twists and turns, it's impressively coherent.
There are excellent performances all around, most especially Michael Siberry, Rick Holmes, and Steven Pasquale masterfully embodying the chilly heart of a man who believes he's the king of the universe.
"Junk" is a familiar story, but for anyone with the stomach and head for another lesson in Wall Street avarice, this one's worth the investment.