Television and film keep reminding us that the rich are not like you and me. There's hardly any need to think back to the grisly after-hours proclivities of Wall Street monster Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Contemplating Taylor Mason's thousand-yard stare on Showtime's Billions will suffice. Ultra-high functionality—plus a fundamental (and usually fatal) social disconnect—figure into high-profile financial narratives from The Bonfire of the Vanities to The Big Short.
So at first, we think we know where playwright Sarah Burgess is headed in her 2016 drama Dry Powder. Its title is the term of art for an investment firm's unencumbered capital. As Burgess demonstrates, it also refers to the explosive relationships that develop among the competitive top officers at a private-equity firm.
Seth (an agile Chris Hinton) is the company's rising rainmaker, but when his latest gem-in-the-rough acquisition—a rescue plan for a California luggage maker on the verge of a major innovation—exposes a bit too much of his touchy-feely side, his nemesis, Jenny (Michelle Murray Wells), the always-calculating numbers person, looks to shoot it down or corrupt it from within. When she warns Seth, "There is a hawk on my shoulder. You can't see it, but it's always there," we probably should be concerned for his long-term health.
But in this production, on opening weekend, we weren't. Though the show's sound design includes Morphine's "Sharks," director Mark Filiaci hadn't fully sharpened Jenny's teeth or those of Seth and Jenny's boss, Rick (Dan Oliver). We also confronted the contradiction of a supposedly coldly analytical Jenny who nonetheless keeps overheating in scenes with her peers.
Still, in a genre that usually demonizes financial types, Burgess serves up a fitting reminder of who the demons actually are—and just how close they are to home.