Last week I attended two off-Broadway plans, "Serious Money" by Caryl Churchill, and "Warrier Class" by Kenneth Lin. I enjoyed both of them, although I think I got rather more out of "Warrier Class."
"Serious Money" is the second summer offering by Potomac Theatre Project/NYC. It is not a new play, evidently, but seems very timely in its witty observation of the world of financiers in London in the 1980s, in the heady days of Thatcher deregulation of the business community. The play depicts the "anything goes" atmosphere of the time. A large, talented cast directed by Cheryl Francone threw themselves body and soul into this performance. It was actually rather exhausting to watch them. Although most of the cast is American, to judge by the brief bios in the program, they put on a variety of accents and delivered their dialogue — heavy on industry jargon – fast enough to make intelligibility a problem at some points. Each of the two acts end with a musical number (piano-accompanied), with surtitles electrically displayed on an overhead screen that was flashing stock prices during the dialogue. My theater-going companion observed that it would have been helpful to have titles for the dialogue as well. But the main point got across, and much of the dialogue in the second act seemed a lot clearer than in the first.
"Warrior Class" places the problem of political corruption front and center. A young Asian-American man from lower Manhattan, recently elected to the NY State Assembly, is plotting the possibility of a Congressional run. He was elected as a Republican, and a veteran Republican campaign consultant is considering whether to back him (and advise the party to back him). In the process of "vetting," the consultant interviews the man's old college girlfriend, discovers unsavory things about his past, and things go downhill from there. This is a three-character drama that holds up very well and projects an air of realism. David Rasche is superb as the veteran campaign consultant, Katharine Powell equally superb as the girlfriend, but Louis Ozawa Changchien really stands out as the young politician. He brings a blazing intensity to the stage that rivets the audience from the moment he appears. I predict we will be seeing lots more of him.
The play is being shown at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, a small theater space at Broadway and 76th Street. The intimate setting contributes to the dramatic tension. Evan Cabnet's direction is well-paced and pointed. This one is running for a few more weeks, and definitely worth a look-in.