A Man Is What He Has

Ayad Akhtar’s last play, The Invisible Hand, skewered market capitalism by demonstrating how even the most ideologically resistant—in that case, Islamic terrorists—can fall prey to its seduction.  Now, in Junk, he returns to the same subject, but this time his focus is on the scene of the crime itself: Wall Street in the mid-1980s, when debt was first transformed into wealth and “junk bonds” made a slew of regulation-baiting investors very wealthy. Continue reading “A Man Is What He Has”


Saying Words That Have Oh So Clearly Been Said So Long Ago

It’s a little strange and a little beautiful to see John Cale performing with a full orchestra to a seated, opera-house audience.  Dressed in an all-black suit brought into relief by a shock of white hair, Cale nods along with the band as he works his way through The Velvet Underground & Nico, which was released fifty years ago in March.  In the intervening years, he has apparently become as comfortable with the Lincoln Center crowd as he was with the weirdos and punks who first saw these songs performed alongside screenings of Andy Warhol’s films.  His viola is now accompanied by the sousaphone. Continue reading “Saying Words That Have Oh So Clearly Been Said So Long Ago”

She Doesn’t Even Go Here

The subtitle of Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls is The African Mean Girls Play.  In some ways, it’s a pretty fair comparison.  This is a sharp and funny work about a group of girls at an elite Ghanian boarding school.  While each prepares for a performance that could make them eligible for the 1986 Miss Global Universe pageant—the name, of course, is similar to Donald Trump’s former enterprise—Paulina (MaameYaa Boafo) bullies her peers into submission and sycophancy.  “I’m so jealous of your life,” coos Nana (Abena Mensah-Bonsu) after hearing Paulina will be wearing Calvin Klein.  “I know,” she replies, delivering her lines as if they were rehearsed for an interviewer, “I’m so blessed.”  But Nana’s subservience doesn’t protect her: Paulina uses her weight to cudgel her self-esteem, asking if Nana wants to be “fat-fat” or “fit and popular,” then eventually insisting that she drop twenty pounds or find a new table in the cafeteria.  These volatile circumstances are only exacerbated when the new girl, the biracial, American-born Ericka (Nabiyah Be), arrives just in time to audition. Continue reading “She Doesn’t Even Go Here”