You need not comprehend high finance or know what buying and selling “junk” is to be pretty much blown away by La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere of Ayad Akhtar’s Junk: The Golden Age of Debt. (Yeah, the title sounds like an economics thesis.) The gifted playwright who gave us Disgraced (coming to the San Diego Rep in October) and The Who & The What (at the Playhouse in 2014) has written a smart, kinetic indictment of the greedy powerbrokers of the ‘80s and their seductively conned empty promises.
Tony winner Doug Hughes directs a simmering cast on a lit, tiered set reminiscent of the old “Hollywood Squares,” with shifts in scene and character changes flying fast and furiously. The central figure is junk bond trader Robert Merkin (Josh Cooke), who has a Lady Macbethian wife (Annika Boras) and two savvy partners in crime (Matthew Rauch, Armando Riesco), all with a lot of dollar signs in their eyes. The characters in their periphery, including a tragic takeover target (Linus Roache) and a conflicted journalist (Jennifer Ikeda), will stick with you just as long. Guaranteed.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.