Wall Street drama in DC: a review of “Junk”



Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Erin Harper and Hope Moshi

For those of you who have taken a finance class at Wilson, or know anything about profit, you would know that the world literally revolves around money. Every country around the world has their own form of money, yet no matter who or where you are, we are all excited to see the numbers in our bank account go up or sad to see them go down. Money, some would say, truly is the key to happiness, but, as others would say, is also the root of all evil. This saying really comes into play in “Junk,” the newest masterpiece to grace Arena Stage’s floors. Running until May 5, directed by Jackie Maxwell and written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar, “Junk” gives an in-depth look into the cutthroat financial world of New York in the 1980s and the everlasting effect that it had on all of us.

The basic overview of “Junk” is about a young up and coming Jewish business tycoon, Robert Merkin (played by Thomas Keegan) planning a manipulative hostile takeover on an old family steel/pharmaceutical business run by Thomas Everson Jr. (played by Edward Gero). The show is a play on the long battle between the old-school businessmen versus the young millennials in the finance world. Merkin uses junk bonds to collapse a rival company, only to buy it in a leveraged buyout and give it to a new owner who has never been a part of the stock market. It is also important to take notice of all the Jewish guys and the myriad of Black characters because it pays homage to how much of a struggle it is for minorities to enter the stock market scene and how hard  they had to work and constantly prove themselves even if they use the “wrong” strategies to do so. In the end, everyone is trying to strike it big in finance. The real question is, how far are Merkin and everyone else involved in this deal are willing to go to get a piece of the financial pie.

Okay, let’s get into the star-studded lineup cast who absolutely killed the show with their acting skills. First of all, Thomas Keegan plays someone who is witty, conniving, narcissistic, and he makes it overall amazing. His portrayal of Merkin is really something special. It can be hard to play a character who is as greedy and ruthless as Merkin, but Keegan adapts the role and executes it perfectly. But, we can’t sleep on the acting skills of Kashayna Johnson, who plays Jacqueline Blount, a two-timing spy who secretly works for two companies that are trying to destroy each other. It wasn’t clear what kind of benefit Blount was receiving for working with both companies (probably money), but she was the character who was most responsible for sinking Thomas Everson Jr, her boss, and Merkin’s companies. Not only did she rat Everson’s company information to Raúl Rivera (Merkin’s assistant, played by Perry Young), she feigned surprised when Everson Jr. questioned how Merkin knew about his business deals. Johnson accurately portrayed what it’s like in the working world—it’s every man for himself.

Unfortunately, “Junk” took us both a while to really get interested in. It was honestly hard to get understand all the financial conversations in the show because neither one of us is an expert in money talks. Yet by the end of the show, we both learned a thing or two about how to manage our finances and how to become better at investing in stocks that will benefit us in the long run. “Junk” can teach all students the right and wrongs inside the financial world but be warned because “Junk” is two hours long. We weren’t expecting the show to be short, but it would have been great to have had an intermission between the acts instead of the show continuously running (to be honest, some members of the audience even fell asleep). Yet in the end, we were provided with complimentary refreshments and desserts that made the night even more sweeter.

We would definitely recommend that you should come out to Arena Stage to view “Junk.” Not only is it entertaining, but you can also learn a thing or two about monetary values. Being informed while also learning new information is one of the best combinations. Trust us, “Junk” is worth it.