Review: “Dry Powder” in Santa Rosa

Fans of corporate dramas like Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and Jerry Sterner’s Other People’s Money might do well to check out the last couple of performances of Dry Powder. The California in Santa Rosa is hosting the Left Edge Theatre production of the Sara Burgess drama through March 26.

It’s set in the offices of KMM, a Capital Management/Private Equity firm headed by Rick (Mike Schaeffer). Rick’s dealing with the blowback from throwing an exceptionally lavish engagement party (with just one elephant) while his firm lays off thousands of employees from a recent acquisition.

Junior Partner Seth (Michael Girts) thinks he has a win/win for the firm with a proposed buyout of a California-based luggage company. Seth’s built a relationship with the CEO of that company (Mark Bradbury) and come up with a plan that will make money for KMM and give the luggage company the means to expand while maintaining local production and staffing levels. Saving an American company and American jobs might take some heat off of KMM.

Michael Girts, Gillian Eichenberger

Junior Partner Jenny (Gillian Eichenberger) thinks only of a win for KMM. That means buying the luggage company, shipping production overseas, and laying off all but four of the company’s 653 employees. Sure, Seth’s proposal might make KMM some money, but Jenny’s would make them more money. And isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?

Burgess has written a tight, 95-minute dramedy that director Jenny Hollingworth has cast well. Schaeffer is very strong as Rick, a man under incredible pressure, much of which has been created by his own hand. He’s a man who gives the outward appearance of being in control but inside is starting to crack under the financial pressure that comes from investors fleeing a magnet for bad publicity.

Girts does well representing a more humanistic side to business while Eichenberger is ice cold as the numbers-driven Jenny. Their interplay is the source of most of this shows biting humor. Bradbury radiates earnestness as the concerned leader of his company, but… watch out.

The show was originally produced “in the round”, as it is here, though it’s actually more of a square at The California. The audience surrounds the stage on four sides, which often leads to action being out of sight of some of the audience. Further sight line issues occur if seated in the second row of the floor-level seating. The audience member seated next to me kept moving from seat to seat in an attempt to keep her eye on the action. Woe is you if you’re seated behind a tall person. Clarity is sacrificed for some intimacy and immersion, but I’m not sure it’s a reasonable trade-off.

You don’t need an MBA to decipher the financial machinations at play in Dry Powder (which is a term that refers to the cash on hand at a firm that can be readily invested) and anyone with any knowledge of business, finance, Wall Street ethos, or any of the many films and plays on the subject will find no real surprises in the script. (It even has shades of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.) Burgess may be preaching to the choir of the evils of unfettered capitalism, but it’s an entertaining (If well-worn) sermon.

You won’t leave the theater feeling good about the world of high finance, but you should leave feeling good about theatre (if you sit in one of the raised-level seats.)  

Left Edge Theatre’s ‘Dry Powder’ runs through March 26 at The California Theatre. 528 7th Street, Santa Rosa. Thu – Sat, 7:30pm; Sun., 2pm. $22–$40. 707.536.1620.

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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