Are the people in control of powerful financial institutions oblivious to the consequences that their data-driven decisions have on the rest of society? Do they know and just not care?
Or, alternatively, do they have some concern but not enough to actually change things?
These are the questions posed by the relatively unknown playwright Sarah Burgess in her timely comedic drama “Dry Powder,” which is being produced off-Broadway at the Public Theater with an unusually starry cast that includes Claire Danes (“Homeland”), John Krasinski (“The Office”) and Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”). It is directed by Thomas Kail (“Hamilton”).
Rick (Azaria), Seth (Krasinski) and Jenny (Danes) are the founding partners of a private equity company that is currently receiving bad press for forcing huge layoffs at a supermarket chain the same week that Rick threw himself an insanely lavish engagement party.
The company, now on the verge of purchasing a California-based luggage company, must decide whether to fire the employees and move production offshore or invest in a risky and expensive new business plan to save and reinvent it.
The text, which is stuffed with insider financial terminology, can be repetitive and didactic. But in Kail’s sleek, spare, in-the-round staging, it makes for a high-powered debate on contemporary business ethics.
Burgess deserves a lot of credit for tackling the subject. There ought to be more plays about big business and finance, just as there should be more plays about government and political issues. Too often, American drama is confined to exploring domestic life.
Danes’ combative, unapologetic and socially clueless Jenny plays off Krasinski’s indecisive Seth, who wants to do the right thing but lacks the courage. Caught in the middle is Azaria’s angst-ridden and easily tempted Rick.
IF YOU GO: “Dry Powder” plays @ The Public Theater through May 1. 425 Lafayette St., publictheater.org.