Money Talks in Dry Powder

The Alley’s production of the buzzy new play tackling the financial industry is the second major show after New York.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis December 29, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Alley theatre   dry powder    photographer lynn lane 38 ymcgga

Jay Sullivan as Seth, John Feltch as Rick, Elizabeth Bunch as Jenny

Image: Lynn Lane

Back in New York in 2013,when Elizabeth Frankel was working as a literary manager at New York’s Public Theater, she read Dry Powder, a comedic drama by then-unknown playwright Sarah Burgess. From the beginning, she knew it was special.

“After reading the script for the first time, I wrote a note,” Frankel, now director of new work at the Alley Theatre, recalls. It’s impressive that a play mostly about business deals could be so engaging, she wrote. She is not yet well-known in the industry, but with this play as a calling card, she will be.

Years later, Frankel’s impressions read like a prophecy. The Public Theater went on to produce the dramedy, and in what surely felt like a dream to the newly minted playwright, Thomas Kail, the Tony Award–winning director of Hamilton, came on board to direct the new work.

“I was extremely excited that he wanted to direct,” says Burgess. “He was a rising star, coming off of a cultural phenomenon, but he always understood where I was coming from and the play.”

The star power didn’t stop there, either. Claire Danes, John Krasinski and Hank Azaria all signed up to join the cast, in an experience Burgess describes as “surreal.” The play premiered in March of last year, and the critics loved it.

The zeitgeist-y work, to be directed in Houston by Taibi Magar, tackles the hard-to-love financial industry, centering around the out-of-touch partners of a private-equity firm. As it begins, the president is facing criticism for throwing a lavish engagement party right as the company is laying off employees.

“I found it fascinating,” says Burgess, reflecting on why she chose to set the play in this milieu, “how certain jobs define people and affect their behaviors.”

The Alley’s presentation of Dry Powder is an impressive score for the Bayou City. “It’s thrilling that this is the second major production after New York,” says Frankel. “We’re excited to have Sarah in Houston for rehearsals and for the Alley’s resident company to perform her funny yet important piece.” 

Dry Powder, Jan 20–Feb 12. From $30. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., 713-220-5700,
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