Review: Alley Theatre’s “Dry Powder”

Take one part “Wall Street,” one part “Glengarry Glen Ross,” add in a touch of “The Big Short” and mix in the witty banter of an Aaron Sorkin script and you’ve got “Dry Powder,” a wonderfully sharp new play running now at the Alley Theatre.

In this timely one-act presentation, Rick (John Feltch) is the head of a private investment firm with a public relations problem. He’s just spent a large sum of money on an extravagant party while his firm under-performs. Elephants may or may not have been involved. The newspapers are ripping him apart. His LPs (limited partners) are nervous and threatening to cut off their funds. Then comes Jeff (Chris Hutchison) with a company for sale and a price hard to refuse.

The rest of the 90 minutes is a quartet of sorts, with Jenny (Elizabeth Bunch) and Seth (Jay Sullivan) joining the fray as Rick’s staffers, each of which has different ideas on how to work the pending deal with Jeff’s company. Should they buy it and run it? Should they purchase it, only to liquidate it a la Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street?” The debate is the show, with intense, biting, clever dialogue that flows like the best parts of “The West Wing” or “A Few Good Men.”

All four actors are equally impressive, with Bunch and Sullivan possibly getting a slight edge for their very believable battles. Are they brother and sister, ex-lovers or just two people who randomly crossed paths? While the show never specifically answers this questions, they fight like they might be any or all of these. Their rivalry is tangible, a credit to both actors. The Alley should also be complimented for using their recently remodeled Hubbard Stage in some interesting ways to keep the play flowing without getting overly complicated or extravagant when it comes to lighting and scenery.

This is the debut of playwright Sarah Burgess but hopefully not her last appearance at The Alley. During Tuesday evening’s post-performance talk-back, it was mentioned that her next play revolves around Washington lobbyists. With a winning story and script, four Alley resident actors and some clever staging, this is another must-see from one of the nation’s finest local theatres.

One bit of advice: Be sure to read the primer on the financial world included in the Playbill. While the play does a good job of keeping the story accessible to novices, a general understanding of the venture capital world and its terminology is recommended for getting the most from this presentation.

**** out of *****
“Dry Powder”
By Sarah Burgess
Directed by Taibi Magar
Alley Theatre
Now through February 12th
Tickets: www.alleytheatre.org
Photo: Elizabeth Bunch as Jenny, John Feltch as Rick and Jay Sullivan as Seth in “Dry Powder” at the Alley Theatre

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