WHAT “Dry Powder”
WHERE Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.
INFO $95; 212-967-7555; publictheater.org
BOTTOM LINE Ace cast in minor drama about private-equity sharks.
You know when Carrie Mathison is trying to convince the men — they’re almost always men — in the CIA and she furrows her brow with such frustrated intensity that the pressure scrunches down her whole proud, smart face? Well, you can see the real deal live, if you can scrounge up a scarce ticket to “Dry Powder,” Claire Danes’ rare theatrical detour from hunting foreign evildoers in “Homeland.”
The self-challenging artist has conspicuously improved her stage presence since her fledgling Broadway debut as Eliza Doolittle in a misbegotten revival of “Pygmalion” in 2007. Danes still doesn’t always know what to do with her hands, but she moves like a dancer, which she has been, and she uses her flat voice to terrific advantage as Jenny, the abrasive, caustic, soulless young co-founder of a private equity firm.
In contrast, the 95-minute drama, by newcomer Sarah Burgess, is just a minor addition to the capitalist-as-shark literature — less giddy with style than “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Serious Money,” less probing than “The Big Short” and “Billions.”
The Public Theater, on a serious roll with “Fun Home,” “Hamilton,” “Eclipsed” and a bulging season of Off-Broadway adventure, has devoted impressive acting and directing resources to this taut but talky and ultimately unremarkable work.
Danes plays the brilliant, merciless money cruncher, a person so devoid of feelings for the people crushed by takeover economies that she boasts, without joking, “I have a hawk on my shoulder!” to anyone daring to soften the numbers-driven ax. She wears a tight black-and-white tweed suit that has the texture of static.
Hank Azaria brings admirable ambivalence to the role of Rick, her boss, who hand-picked Jenny as one of two financial prodigies to run the business with him. Rick is facing a media storm after throwing himself a lavish engagement party, with elephants (he insists it was just one elephant), on the day the firm laid off hundreds of workers in a takeover.
Thomas Kail, director of a little show called “Hamilton,” stages this one with minimal, surprisingly faux modernism. Modular blue cubes are rearranged for different scenes, separated by a few flashing lights and electronic music that sounds like the kind airports use to show how with-it they are.
John Krasinski (“The Office”) is sweetly persuasive as Seth, the co-worker with misgivings about their work who’s meant to counterbalance Jenny’s blinkered ravenousness. Sanjit De Silva is suitably febrile as the owner of a business about to be plundered. Seth says, “Everybody hates us.” She says, “They’re jealous.” Nothing new there.