Some people want to make difference. Some people want to make money. And some want both.
Enter Bennett, a ruthless millionaire banker with enough selfish bravado to make Gordon Gekko run for cover. Bennett develops a scheme to make himself even richer: microloans. Issue loans to people in such tiny amounts that collateral is unnecessary. Issue thousands of them. Millions. Then jack up the interest rates, collect investments, and cash out before the ship hits the iceberg. And if the world economy collapses as a result, oh well.
Heading InterAct’s laudable cast, Kevin Bergen appropriately encapsulates the sharp, slick-haired tycoon as he manipulates two small nonprofit lenders run by naïve college types (Hannah Gold and Dave Johnson) into global, predatory conglomerates. This is a fast-paced ensemble show, with the remainder of the very amusing cast playing multiple roles.
Special mention goes to the versatile Frank X, who portrays both a smarmy Federal Reserve bureaucrat and a poor start-up businessman from Ghana who’s among the first to be snookered. But Bi Jean Ngo turns in the most memorable performance as a paranoid and deeply neurotic securities rater. Her early scene with Bennett is comic gold. Rounding out the cast is Maia DeSanti as a middle class housewife who loses her life savings in the eventual collapse.
Mike Lew’s savvy script, under the smart direction of Seth Rozin, moves at the speed of light, cleverly satirizing the recent (current) financial crisis. Dark humor prevails throughout, and all actors are more than capable of delivering the ample laughs. That said, a couple moments didn’t quite wash. It’s hard to go over the top with a biting social satire, but when image-conscious Bennett throws himself to the ground kicking and screaming after someone tells him “no”, that line is crossed.
The set, lighting and sound design (by Caitlin Lainoff, Peter Whinnery and Mark Valenzuela, respectively) mesh perfectly with the fast and furious world of high finance. No second is wasted in the flawlessly-timed scene and costume changes.
InterAct’s production is a whirlwind. The audience leaves comprehending about half of Bennett’s scheme, which highlights a main theme of the play. Confuse and misdirect enough people and you too can be a millionaire. MICROCRISIS is a show not to be trifled with.
Written by Mike Lew
Directed by Seth Rozin
January 20 – February 12, 2012
InterAct Theatre Company
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103