Junk, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, is set in the fast-paced world of the mid-1980s, when Wall Street brokers used debt to create wealth through the issuance of high-risk, high-interest junk bonds. Playwright Ayad Akhtar, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Disgraced, wrote this fictionalized portrait of “junk bond king” Michael Milken and the ambitious federal prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani. Doug Hughes adeptly directs this fast-paced drama of duplicity and dishonesty. Stephen Pasquale is wonderful as the junk-bond huckster Robert Merkin, who plans a takeover of a family-owned and operated steel mill. He declares as his modus operandi that “debt is an asset.”
Rick Holmes is thoroughly convincing as steel-plant owner Tom Everest, playing a conflicted person who does not want to sell his third-generation business, which would mean massive layoffs, but also fears that steadfastly refusing to sell could also lead to a tragic end.
John Lee Beatty’s bi-level set highlights the duplicity and impersonality of the Wall Street chicanery depicted. There are 22 actors who appear with great aplomb as they move the drama to its end, Among them are three actors—Matthew Rauth, Matthew Saldivar, and Michael Siberry—who enable the show to demonstrate that you cannot collude to establish wealth using dubious instruments like junk bonds.
Teresa Aviva Lim, as a crusading reporter, and Miriam Silverman, as Merkin’s wife, are wonderful as female leads that are trapped in the entanglements of this financial world.
I highly recommend this play for an audience seeking an engaging evening of theater.