In a surprise August move, Harlequin Productions cancelled its original play choice for October, the Chicago crime drama A Steady Rain. In an interview with Molly Gilmore for The Olympian, Harlequin’s associate artistic director, Aaron Lamb, characterized Rain as “not the story we wanted to be telling at this moment.” Instead, actor-director Ann Flannigan, familiar to Harlequin patrons from her dozen-plus appearances on that stage, was recruited to direct the timely (2016) Sarah Burgess dramedy Dry Powder.
As the show’s curtain rises, we find ourselves in the fraught, Manhattan offices of KMM Capital Management, a private-equity investment firm. The tension stems partly from KMM’s tenuous financial position, mostly from public outcry over founder Rick Hannel’s lavish engagement party, thrown the same day his company incited the layoffs of thousands of grocery workers. If that seems far-fetched, a web search for Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone should dispel any skepticism.
Dry Powder dramatizes a sociopolitical clash between those who believe the sole purpose of such a firm is to enrich its shareholders — personified in this script by co-managing director Jenny (Helen Harvester) — and those who, like Jenny’s colleague Seth (Brian S. Lewis), feel the overriding goal should be to support struggling, American businesses. Jeff Schrader (Ryan Martin Holmberg) is the CEO of Landmark Luggage, a company in KMM’s crosshairs. Hannel’s played by Brian Tyrrell, who’s a gifted actor, retired Centralia College theater professor and distinguished director (Starry Messenger at Olympia Family Theater, Urinetown from Saint Martin’s University). The flexible set was designed by Linda Whitney.
Of Jenny, Flannigan says, “She’s pretty far on the spectrum of absolutist, pro-capitalist. … Seth, to me, is our audience’s entry point … into this world since he’s the one struggling a bit more with the issues at play.” Flannigan makes no bones about the play’s provocative political discourse, but reveals the playwrights’ primary goal was to give audience members an exciting night at the theater. “A good play starts with story, relationships, and builds from there,” Flannigan adds. She considers Dry Powder an entertaining way of confronting our own consumerist choices: “We’re kinda looking under the covers of something we don’t necessarily like [but which] many of us benefit from in some way.”
8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays,
2 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 4-27
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia