By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Bankers are lending big money to poor folks who can never pay it back, Ivy League whiz kids are developing new ways to get interest on that cash, financial watchdogs grant high ratings to every scammer, the feds turn all their cheeks, and in the play Microcrisis — can you believe it? — it’s big fun.
Granted, you can argue fine points about the financial stuff, but not about the fun factor of Microcrisis, in InterAct Theatre Company’s dynamically wacky production staged by InterAct’s leader, Seth Rozin. It opened Wednesday at the Adrienne Theatre with a cast fully versed in the idiocies of the characters.
Mike Lew’s satire, in which the New York-based playwright takes everyone in the international financial crisis to extremes, is an all-out goof. A banker gets catatonic on the floor when a big federal official denies him an ease in regulations. The federal official can barely take time to consider the question while he volleys racketball shots around the super-cool court he’s built under the Federal Reserve offices. He breaks his game, then wipes up with a 2,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton towel for a moment of scheming.
Lenders take off to Monaco after popping the necessary ’ludes, and end up canoodling on a craps table. As quiz-show music plays in the production’s background, bankers swap gift-wrapped boxes of moolah. People make millions selling before the dominos fall, and throughout, a poor businessman who needed only a small loan is in a lifetime of debt from sales talk and ballooning interest.
And on and on it goes, an 80-minute romp that should be 70 -- but that’s a minor irritation. Lews’ play is aptly stupid in its depictions and deceptively smart in its construction. Every character represents some faceless part of the real crisis — a bank, the junk-money industry, government watchdogs. Even the woeful, ignored businessman speaks for a class of borrowers tantalized by greed and mired in denial.
Four of the six-member cast play multiple roles, the particularly flexible Frank X among them; as the head of New York’s Fed, he’s a real swell —the epitome of arrogance and entitlement. The show-stealer, though, is Bi Jean Ngo, as the securities rating executive whose emotion-wrought bang-bang delivery can rip up a room.
Kevin Bergen — often seen at People’s Light, where’s he part of the repertory — is the high-strung smarm-master who thinks all this up (it’s called micro-credit), Hannah Gold and Dave Johnson (Puck in Lantern’s Midsummer Night’s Dream last season) are high-octane university kids who become the faces of this mess, and Maia Desanti is the schoolteacher who throws her pension away.
The production is lifted into another zone by Mark Valenzuela’s sound, which makes all sorts of things that aren’t physically there seem real. You know, just like the bankers did.
Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, email@example.com, or #philastage on Twitter.
Microcrisis: Presented by InterAct Theatre Company at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St., through Feb. 12. Tickets: $28-$35. Information: 215-568-8079 or www.interacttheatre.org.
InterAct Theatre Company gives to wacky "Microcrisis" a once-over. Is this satire about the financial crisis as goofy as it seems? Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews.
By Howard Shapiro