JUNK at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.


Imagine a dystopian society where everyone’s sole motivation is greed and the only god anyone worships is Money. No, this isn’t a Margaret Atwood cautionary tale about the future, it’s JUNK, Ayad Akhtar‘s take on 1980s indulgence and the subsequent financial collapse. Using a funhouse mirror set, this is a play about only seeing the world thru the distortion of avarice.

I loved Ayad Akhtar‘s 2012 play DISGRACED, which delved deep into identity as defined thru religion and race, told in very modern and bold terms. You can still see Mr. Akhtar’s wit in JUNK, but with more than quadruple the number of characters his skill at showing the many conflicting layers of personality gets narrowed to just the lead, Robert Merkin. Merkin is an obvious swap for IRL Michael Milken, the Junk Bond King, famous for hostile takeovers and insider trading.

Disappointingly, this is a story we have seen in MANY plays and movies. There are no real surprises, until the last few minutes of the play. So although the pace is quick and the text is smart, it is an old story that plays out as expected. And if he mansplained “Junk Bonds” one more time, I would have walked out.

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