'Junk' Is Set In The '80s, But Relevant Today, Street Corner Arts Says

Feb 25, 2019

Street Corner Arts is presenting a production of Ayad Akhtar’s play Junk. “The play is based on the junk bond scandal back in the '80s, but what’s interesting about it is that … here we are thirty years later and you’d think that the financial world [and] the political world would’ve learned their lesson but we see a lot of the same behavior today,” says Rommel Sulit, the company’s associate artistic director and an actor in Junk.

“As far as men behaving badly, it seems like they haven’t learned.”

“I feel like things are cyclical, especially when it comes to … money or anything in terms of people in power,” says cast member Carlo Lorenzo Garcia. “People in power are always going to try and find ways to manipulate the system, find the loopholes, and to make the most money possible. And that’s basically what’s happening in this play.”

“[Akhtar] says in the forward to the play not to get too tied to the setting of the mid-80s,” says actor Joe Penrod. “And I think that is to kind of show the universality of this issue. Yeah, it takes place in the mid-80s, but it is still just as relevant today.”

Since many of the characters exhibit dubious morals, it was sometimes a challenge for the actors to identify with the characters they were portraying. Garcia plays a character loosely based on Michael Milken, who eventually went to prison for his financial misdeeds. For him, connecting to the character meant finding his more vulnerable side. It was about “finding the public persona and then the private persona,” he says. “My character’s probably the one that, actually, you get to see at home with his wife. And finding those moments of charm and those moments of vulnerability… is more interesting to me.”

“My character’s the CEO of a steel company that is the subject of a hostile takeover, and there’s a lot of, I think, humanity in him. He has heart and loyalty” says actor Joe Penrod. “The difficult part for me were the glimpses of racism and sexism that come out of his mouth on kind of a regular basis. So there are kind of clay feet there.”

“Our company has done a lot of work [focusing on] political issues and social issues,” says Sulit. “[But] we really pick plays because we like the scripts. We always start there, but we always find that there’s a lot of relevance in the topics that they plays that we select have. I think really it was the best script that we had in our hands… and felt that there was the added bonus of the relevance to today’s world.”  

'Junk' is onstage through March 9 at Zach Theatre's Whisenhunt Stage.