What would it take to unleash another worldwide financial catastrophe? Not much, according to microcrisis, a witty excursion through post-recession economic foolhardiness by Michael Lew. Some gullible investors, a smidgen of regulatory negligence, and a handful of venal bankers spouting indecipherable acronyms would do the trick.
Microcrisis stages a second bubble and a second calamitous pop, swapping subprime mortgages (so 2008) for another culprit: predatory lending in the developing world. Lydia (Lauren Hines), a wide-eyed NGO intern, falls into bed—literally and financially—with Bennett (Alfredo Narciso), a swaggering i-banker. Ivy League whiz-kid Randy (David Gelles) conjures a start-up linking destitute African borrowers with soon-to-be-destitute American investors—all cluelessly shoveling their savings into the abyss. Simultaneously portraying a Ghanaian entrepreneur and the New York Fed chair, William Jackson Harper plays opposites with satirical precision.
In Clint Ramos’s clever set, panels lined with safety-deposit boxes fly open to flit between locations. With each scene of unprincipled chaos, we realize how un-safe financial institutions are. Ralph B. Peña’s direction of this Ma-Yi Theater production propels the cast through the play quicker than toxic assets churning through a multimillion-dollar endowment.
Occasionally, microcrisis slumps, veering into lectures or defaulting to sentimentality. Unlike the economy it depicts, though, Lew’s play recovers—making its initial public offering worth investing in.