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A CurtainUp Review
. . .And then eBay. Facebook. Ok, home equity loans. Harvard Alumni Association. And then boom. Ivy Microloan. See? — the young CEO of Ivy Microloan, Randy
Microcrisis begins with a flurry of activity and humor. We are in Africa, we meet a poor (very) small business owner, and suddenly he's at a micro-lender, staffed by a do-gooding college student on her summer break. Then a banker with a briefcase swoops in, asks all sorts of business questions, and somehow purchases the micro-lending non-profit. Oh yeah, he puts the college student in charge of the entire company. Bennett, the banker (played by the slimy-slick Alfredo Narciso), quickly becomes a financial villain. He lures the CEO (David Gelles) of fictional Ivy Microloan — a web nonprofit that hooks Harvard alum up with students who needs small cash infusions for projects and trips— with the promise of huge stock returns.
William Jackson Harper
& Lauren Hines
(Photo: Web Begole)
What ensues is some fictional financial mayhem. It's loosely based around the same concepts that caused our latest recession and housing bubble, with some added loopholes and roadblocks based around the newer financial rules and attempts at restrictions in place by the government.
Hopefully you're still following the gist of this production — I think I did, though in a blink, a tangled web of misappropriated goals, deception, naiveté and lots of money was quickly woven. I found myself silently thanking the NPR Planet Money podcast for their layman explanations of the financial terms I was hearing onstage.
It seems a goal of Microcrisis is to educate its viewers (via this what-if storyline) to understand better the latest economic foibles of our world. And it is somewhat successful. However the top-spinning pace of the plot might leave many with more questions than answers. From my experience, theatergoers are not always a financially savvy bunch. The good news is, the energy level never lets up, and I was a much happier viewer once I gave up trying to follow every detail (why are they in Monaco again?).
The acting is generally on par, although the characterizations are not all likeable. Lauren Hines, who plays young college student Lydia, is borderline grating. Mrs. Chavez (Socorro Santiago) oozes a little too much misery. The highlights of the cast are easily Jackie Chung and William Jackson Harper, both of whom play multiple characters.
There is no doubt Microcrisis provides an entertaining time for the audience. There's a lot of laughter, and an infused wackiness to the production keeps the evening lively. But a lot of this was at the expense of the financial industry. Don't get me wrong, I'm as upset as the next middle-class American when comprehending the irresponsibility of this sector over the last decade. However, satires like this need to be taken with a grain of salt. How are we ever going to reach a balanced, responsible practice for our economy and financial sector if the rest of us keep viewing traders and investors (and the rest of them) as evil and heartless?
Written by Michael Lew
Directed by Ralph B Pena
Cast: Jackie Chung, David Gelles, William Jackson Harper, Lauren Hines, Alfredo Narciso, Socorro Santiago
Sets: Clint Ramos
Costumes: Theresa Squire
Sound: Shane Rettig
Lighting: Japhy Weideman
Choreography: Dax Valdes
Stage Manager: Dave Polato
Ma-Yi Theater Company at HERE Arts Center, 145 Ave of the Americas, 212 352 3101 www.here.org
From 9/28/10; opening 10/5/10 closing 10/23/10
Tuesday through Saturday @ 830pm, Saturday at 4pm, and other occasional additional performances.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on 10/4/10 performance
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