“Dry Powder” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Rapacious! Cut throat! High finance. Let me be exact, “highest” finance, the world where fortunes are made or lost by the decisions of private equity firms. “Dry Powder” by Sarah Burgess places the audience right inside one of those firms, and Director Marya Sea Kaminski makes sure you view its least admirable characteristics.

This is where competition is intense, and the players don’t give up easily. They make millions for themselves through deals that often end up with the little guys getting screwed and American workers being laid off. Oh well, that’s not their problem.

We meet the key players as Seth, performed with intensity by MJ Sieber, is pushing a deal that he thinks has everything going for it (American made luggage, a quality product, well priced, and made by American workers. It will create jobs!) Rick (Shawn Belyea), the fund’s President is enthusiastic. But then Jenny enters the picture. “Of course, we’ll off-shore it. That’s where the bigger profit is.”

Rick is a little uncomfortable with that idea. He just threw a large party, so large, so over the top that the press is blasting him. Jenny, however, is very convincing, and she doesn’t give up easily. Hana Lass creates a Jenny who is totally devoid of human kindness. As a woman, she’s fought extra hard to get where she is, and she didn’t get there by being compassionate. Her brain operates entirely as a profit and loss calculator. The playwright, director, and actor have made Jenny the woman you love to hate

These characters are stereotypes, but their clashes are never boring. There’s even a bit of compassion generated for Jeff (Richard Nguyen Sloniker). He’s the little guy whose company needs the money to manufacture his fine product, the guy who is little more than a pawn in the other characters’ high finance chess game.

This is a tale for our time where the struggle is between morality and money. The production is taut, played out on Matthew Smucker’s icy set that perfectly captures the cold short-term decision making at the heart of the action. Robert Aguilar’s lighting is another plus, reinforcing, as it does, the hard-hearted world of high finance.

Through April 15 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, 206 443-2222 or Seattlerep.org).

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