BWW Review: Darkly Funny DRY POWDER at the Rep Lacks Much Else
There's a well-known TV and Film writer who has a reputation for those quick witted, fast paced banter conversations (sometimes in the halls of the White House and sometimes while creating a social media platform. You know who I mean). And it's fun to listen to these people be more eloquent and quick than any of us could ever be in real life without a script. Now take those quick banter scenes, expand them to the length of an entire play, and pack them full to the brim with enough numbers and financial lingo that anyone outside Goldman Sachs would feel lost and what you have is Sarah Burgess' play "Dry Powder" currently playing at the Seattle Rep.
In this vicious world of high finance, we meet Rick (Shawn Belyea) who owns a private equity firm and is in the midst of a PR nightmare as he just bought out a company and laid off most everyone right at the same time as he threw an extravagant engagement party for himself. But one of his top dogs Seth (MJ Sieber) has just the thing to overcome those bad feelings. He's brought in Jeff (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) who's looking for investors in his family's luggage company and Seth has sold him on letting his firm buy them out under the idea of expanding the business. But Rick's other top dog Jenny (Hana Lass) doesn't like the plan and wants to gut the business and send all the work overseas. And thus the verbal sparring begins.
The problem is there's not much more than that. There's lots of darkly funny vicious talk and a plot that consists of "will they or won't they save the company?" No one grows or learns anything. There's no message or meaning you're left with at the end other than that financial people like money. And it's so over-laden with financial talk that much of it just goes right over your head (at least it did for me). I just kept asking myself, "What are you trying to tell me here?" and the answer I got was, "Nothing, but aren't they funny when they backstab each other?"
Marya Sea Kaminski's direction starts the action and intensity off at an 11 and keeps it there for the entire play, or that could simply be the way the play is written but either way I was just tired by the end with no levels to break anything up. Her cast is quite good in their roles. Belyea basically owns the stage each time he comes on and truly has the authority and confidence to pull off this high powered financier but still kept him somewhat human. Lass' stoic and socially numb Jenny is quite funny and makes for the perfect counterpart to Sieber's Seth who obviously still wants to retain a shred of compassion. And Slonkier's portrayal of a man struggling between keeping his family business together and making a ton of money is honest and thoughtful. But as good as these actors are, the script limits them to just those characteristics and allows no growth.
The show is really for a very specific niche market, either financial people who will revel in seeing their world on stage and will get all the references and people who don't mind a lack of plot and just want to see people be horrible to each other. Unfortunately I don't fall into either of those camps. I like a good vicious bit of banter as much as the next theatergoer but I don't want it for 95 minutes straight and I prefer it be combined with an actual narrative. Which is why, with my three letter rating system, I give the Seattle Rep's "Dry Powder" a confused and exhausted MEH. Sure there were some funny zingers but I want more to hook me in.