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Lincoln Center Theater Presents "Junk" at the Vivian Beaumont
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Lincoln Center Theater Presents "Junk" at the Vivian Beaumont

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Lincoln Center Theater
At the Vivian Beaumont
Andre Bishop: Producing Artistic Director
212.239.6200
By arrangement with The Araca Group

Presents:
Junk
(Junk Web Page)

By Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Doug Hughes

With:
Ito Aghayere, Phillip James Brannon, Tony Carlin
Demosthenes Chrysan, Jenelle Chu, Caroline Hewitt
Rick Holmes, Ted Koch, Ian Lassiter, Teresa Avia Lim
Adam Ludwig, Sean McIntyre, Nate Miller, Steven Pasquale
Ethan Phillips, Matthew Rauch, Matthew Saldivar
Charlie Semine, Michael Siberry, Miriam Silverman
Joey Slotnick, Henry Stram, Stephanie Umoh

Sets: John Lee Beatty
Costumes: Catherine Zuber
Lighting: Ben Stanton
Original Music & Sound: Marc Bennett
Projections: 59 Productions
Stage Manager: Charles Means
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Managing Director: Adam Siegel
Exec. Dir., Development & Planning: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Jessica Niebanck
Production Manager: Paul Smithyman

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 24, 2017 Matinee


Lincoln Center Theater has produced, this time around, a meandering, almost three-hour play, with a multitudinous cast and ephemeral plot, abstract sets, and projections, about the crime of predatory debt, as the masses feed the wealthy on Wall Street. Or, so it seems in this writer’s strained analysis. The Vivian Beaumont is a cavernous theater with fantastic sight lines. It requires engaging drama and discernable design to bring the audience to rapt attention. The King and I did just that, as well as Oslo, both featured in rave reviews on these pages. Junk, by Ayad Akhtar, whose play, Disgraced, was reviewed twice on these pages, Off and On Broadway, has, here, failed to teach the audience the basic financial history of junk bond trading, requisite to understanding who Michael Milkin was and how his demise unfolded.

Akhtar’s stand-in for Milken is the fictional Robert Merkin, with Steven Pasquale in this lead role. Unfortunately, the audience knows Mr. Pasquale most for his blazing performance in The Bridges of Madison County and for his machismo song and dance in The Robber Bridegroom. As a devious devil to amass a fortune on the heads of the vulnerable, he still evokes the memory of a romantic stranger. The seduction in this play, however, involves sex with corporate collusion, low on drama. The storyline is clogged with endless soliloquies, better left to pundits on Bloomberg or CNBC. This is no “Wolf of Wall Street”, but rather a stage version of the Journal’s financial pages.

Featured among the cast of 23 are Joey Slotnick as Boris Pronsky, a stand-in for Boris Boesky, Miriam Silverman as Amy Merkin, Robert’s aggressively savvy, yet vulnerable wife, Michael Siberry as Leo Tressler, a billionaire, old school investor, having an affair with financial reporter, Judy Chen (Teresa Avia Lim), who seizes the fourth wall in monologues to the audience, Matthew Saldivar as Raúl Rivera, Merkin’s crafty lawyer, Matthew Rauch as Izzy Peterman, Merkin and Rivera’s greedy client, and Rick Holmes as Thomas Everson, Jr., whose Allegheny, Pennsylvania family’s steel company is in the crosshairs of Merkin et al. Merkin puts the wheels into motion to bring Everson steel down, raking in a fortune for his angst-ridden investors and creating a disaster for the steelworkers and their utterly devastated boss.

Director, Doug Hughes, has made the most of Akhtar’s dry, lackluster play, especially in the choice of set and sound designs. John Lee Beatty’s shiny black stage and stock market projections, framed by geometric grids, behind or on which the cast appears and disappears, plus Marc Bennett’s intermittent pulse of electronic sound to signal a scenic change, were highpoints of the afternoon. Catherine Zuber’s classic, dark suits and Ben Stanton’s ingenious lighting, with chiaroscuro backdrop figures, were also eye-catching. But, just as John Leguizamo is dynamically teaching Latin history onstage, nearby, Akhtar could have written something like “Wolf of Wall Street” that teaches high finance with vibrancy and wit, or at least some drama.



Steven Pasquale as Robert Merkin
in Lincoln Center Theater's production of "JUNK"
Courtesy of T. Charles Erickson



A scene from the Lincoln Center Theater
production of "JUNK" by Ayad Akhtar
Courtesy of T. Charles Erickson


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net