Azaria, Danes, Krasinski Take the Money and Run in Public's ‘Dry Powder'

You get plenty of bang for your buck with Sarah Burgess’ “Dry Powder,” now at the Public Theater, and that’s just when it comes to the leads: Hank Azaria, Claire Danes and John Krasinski.

Performed at the intimate Martinson Theater, the experience of attending "Dry Powder" occasionally leaves us feeling as if we’re at a private gala with stars from “The Simpsons,” “Homeland” and NBC’s “The Office.” And the director? It’s Thomas Kail, of “Hamilton.” Ka-ching!

Take my advice, though, and don’t party with these people. In Burgess’ world premiere, a comedy-drama where the subject matter is—brrrrrrrr—leveraged buyouts, the trio of actors make for a heartless team of icy finance execs looking to wring every penny out of any company they can get their hands on.

There are, it turns out, varying degrees of callousness to be explored in this universe, and that’s where “Dry Powder” sinks its claws. The title (if, like me, you’re also a hapless English major, and didn’t know) refers to the “current amount of capital available to private equity investors.” In other words: “How much do we have on hand to buy stuff with?”

Azaria’s Rick is founder and president of a capital management firm. His younger founding partners are the yin-and-yang to his final say on deals. Seth (Krasinski) is a flashy go-getter looking for acquisition targets. Jenny (Danes) is a humorless numbers cruncher.

Watching Danes and Kransinki lob insults at one another for 95 minutes is nearly entertainment enough. Here, though, we find their firm at a turning point: Investors are fleeing, since Rick’s company decimated the ranks of a grocery chain at the same time his flashy engagement party was making gossip headlines.

Everyone here is working an angle. Rick’s priority seems to be keeping his fiancee happy. Seth wants to be part of a company that makes things and treats its workers as family, but he’s also afraid to get his hands dirty. Jeff (Sanjit DeSilva), the chief of a luggage company Seth has identified as ripe for takeover, wants to protect his workers, but needs dough to support an ill-advised business venture back home.

It’s Danes, though, who made off with my heart—and has anyone seen my wallet? I can’t recall a female playwright in recent memory crafting such a nasty, robotic female character, yet Jenny has an essential honesty: She’s not coy about being ruthless.

“Dry Powder” evokes films like “Wall Street,” posing questions about whether we’re all just looking out for our own self-interest. The performances are good, and the simple cube-based set works nicely.

Azaria, Danes and Krasinski are clearly going for some muscle-stretching work-life balance by appearing in a small-ish (and mostly sold-out) new play at The Public. Somewhere, I wonder if Rick, Seth and Jenny are laughing at them. Don’t these guys know they could be making better money in TV?

“Dry Powder,” through May 1 at The Public’s Martinson Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Tickets: $95 and up. Call 212-967-7555.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

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