New York | 2h 30m | Already closed


From 51 critic and 446 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Great staging

About the show

Lincoln Center Theater presents Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar's new drama about an '80s junk bond king out to change the rules of the financial world. Starring Steven Pasquale as Robert Merkin. More…

It’s 1985. Robert Merkin, the resident genius of the upstart investment firm Sacker Lowell, has just landed on the cover of "Time Magazine." Hailed as "America's Alchemist," his proclamation that "debt is an asset" has propelled him to dizzying heights. Zealously promoting his belief in the near-sacred infallibility of markets, he is trying to re-shape the world. What Merkin sets in motion is nothing less than a financial civil war, pitting magnates against workers, lawyers against journalists, and, ultimately, everyone against themselves. Set over 30 years ago, this is a play about how, while most of us weren't watching, money became the only thing of real value. Directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes.


"Not only the most important play you'll see all year, but the most entertaining...Shakespearean in its outsize scope and dramatis personae...'Junk' may remind audiences of 'The Big Short,' both in its masterful elucidation of a confusing subject and its shocking depiction of the corrupting influence of money. But 'Junk' is even more powerful because those doing the corrupting are in the room with us, and a small voice in the back of our heads is cheering them on. " Full Review


"Smashingly entertaining...This big, brash melodrama is spiked like holiday party punch with acid humor, and it's propelled by barely contained outrage...Bracingly and briskly directed by Doug Hughes...That Akhtar manages to make all of this financial wrangling both lucid and exciting is impressive. That he finds so much contemporary resonance in the material is downright thrilling...Arguably the year's best, most provocative new play." Full Review


"Akhtar's a caster of spells, which is possibly the only way into the gripping tale he tells here...It is searingly human. Akhtar has repeatedly shown a gift for creating individuals free of the kind of stereotyping that has marked so many accounts of the financial corruptions and collapse of the ’80...He refuses to paint in broad strokes...Accordingly, Hughes has staged the play with infinite detail and a kind of exquisite filigree in the way characters are motivated and defined." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Akhtar’s dense work simultaneously furrowed my brow and had me on the edge of my seat. It strikes a similar chord to other masterworks that unapologetically delve into a particular place and time...Pasquale’s cold charisma is infectious, and Akhtar’s script gives him enough ammunition that his scheming maintains plausibility...'Junk' could become esoteric if in the wrong hands. Fortunately, director Doug Hughes keeps the pace brisk." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Will keep you on the edge of your seat, even as you sense the inevitable arc of this rise-and-fall saga...Playwright Akhtar is a brilliant researcher, as well as a consummate craftsman...However, he’s broadened his scope, penetrating to the heart of contemporary American values...He’s done it with bold theatricality, in a sensational, large-scale production. Lincoln Center Theatre has put its money where its playwright’s mouth is." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Akhtar spins a tough, muscular melodrama about the finance jungle, directed at breakneck speed by Hughes...It may initially strike audiences as a twice-told tale...But the playwright has plenty of fresh points to make...’Junk’ is also a much richer piece because Akhtar has taken the long view, connecting the dots between 1985 and today...Cheers to Lincoln Center Theater for producing this rangy, mordant new play and giving it the first-class production it deserves.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The lack of anyone sympathetic to root for is a problem for me. It is basically an ensemble piece with too many characters for any of them to be developed in much depth. If you are too young to remember the rise and fall of Milken, you may learn something new. Otherwise, your level of engagement may depend on your interest in finance and the economy...Hughes skillfully keeps the many strands under control." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"The world of high finance of the 1980s is illuminated in fascinatingly meticulous detail...What we get is a financial fantasyland filled with undercurrents of greed, race, sex and other passions: all in all, a contemporary morality play. Make that immorality play... Akhtar’s writing is smart, focused and laser-sharp...The cast includes a handful of sterling performances...Director Hughes handles the action exceedingly well...Akhtar & Co. provide a theatrical jolt with 'Junk.'" Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“Complexly layered...But Akhtar makes the key elements easy to follow...’Junk’ is like a Shakespearean history play about war, complete with lies, betrayal, spies, sex, and blood, where words and actions can be twisted to mean something else...Akhtar is not exactly the first person to write about how money became a kind of religion...but he does so with a graceful style that turns clichés inside out while choosing no real heroes or villains...A strong cast...Not out-of-date in the least.” Full Review

City Cabaret

“An electrifying and riveting epic tale about the machinations of finance...It has the relevancy of this morning's newsbreak...As an adroit cast of 23 weaves seamlessly through the complicated world of big money, our eyes zero in on the charismatic Pasquale playing Robert Merken...Directed with intoxicating rapid speed by Hughes...Despite the interlaced theme, the play moves swiftly... ‘Junk’ is another of Akhtar's must-see plays." Full Review

Village Voice

“An exceptional work to be produced right now: It dramatizes a time, and a factual story, in which the greedsters who run our financial world actually had—or, at least, believed to some degree that they had—virtuous motives mixed in with their simple selfishness...Akhtar is unsparing: He lets nobody off the hook, but he also gives them all full credit...Director Doug Hughes obliges, driving his game cast at a nerve-jangling tempo.” Full Review

Reflections in the Light

“If the world of bond investment leaves you scratching your head, don't be intimidated by ‘Junk,’ Ayad Akhtar's fascinating new Broadway play...Douglas Hughes expertly directs the large cast of 23 with the vibrant action...The two-and-a-half-hour script from the Pulitzer-Prize winner for ‘Disgraced’ is tight and engrossing...The plot can be followed without trouble...Don't miss this one.” Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"'Junk' makes the world of 1980s finance utterly riveting, despite a relatively predictable plot...Despite Akhtar’s attempts to complicate our feelings, it’s difficult not to see these already rich people pushing numbers around and tearing apart family-owned businesses as the bad guys...Still, it’s an enthralling production...And despite each character’s path seeming inevitable, their choices — or lack thereof — will stick with you long after the final bow." Full Review

Time Out New York

“Akhtar spends much of the play briefing the audience on hostile takeovers and insider trading. But the details don’t feel sweaty…‘Junk’ melds a breadth of genres—crime story, tragedy, issue play, cautionary tale—into a fast-moving, broad-ranging social thriller…In Akhtar’s telling, this story is partly about male status and power…But it’s also about race, privilege, competing ideals and, of course, greed. Junk has a cast of 23, and the size of the production helps it cast a wide net of blame.” Full Review


"Though perhaps not stuffed with forever treasured quips as most Shakespeare plays or without one really unforgettable quote like Wall Street's "greed is good", 'Junk' is nevertheless smartly scripted, and integrates multiple issues into the main plot with Shakespearean flair...Hughes keeps the multi-faceted plot developments moving at presto tempo...Thanks to the smart script and staging, the result is top to bottom excellence for the small as well as major role players." Full Review

AM New York

"You call this 'Junk?' I call it solid storytelling...What separates Akhtar’s play is how it so skillfully integrates the speed, size, and detailed plot mechanics of a high-stakes thriller with light comedy and space for the characters to consider how high finance both deviates from and reflects traditional American values...Even while many of the characters are underdeveloped, 'Junk' is engrossing from start to finish, and Hughes’ sleek, high-powered and fluid production never lags in moment... Full Review

Theater Life

“’Nobody knows what any of this shit means!,’ cries one of the characters...Fortunately, Akhtar and his director Hughes makes these complex maneuverings fascinating and exciting, if not entirely understandable...Hughes’ crisp staging keeps the action moving as fast as those neon symbols on the stock market news zipper and the large cast create distinct and vibrant characters so we follow the sometimes confusing storyline.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Staged like a pinball machine...You may not understand every reason, move, or hazard, but overall impression of a vigilante mechanism operating outside established methods and stretched-to-the-limit laws is as clear and compelling...Hughes does a crackerjack job with pacing; preciseness of gesture and expression. Focus is unequivocal; ambition and fear visceral." Full Review

Chicago Tribune

"Although playwright Ayad Akhtar's moralistic and cynical new drama...does not tell us much we do not already know, there is still something illuminating and undeniably stimulating about watching the multifarious fiscal sins of the ’80s all laid out before you...Especially as produced here, 'Junk" is an epic, strutting, restless, sexually charged, slam-bang-wham piece of work...A show ideal for those who become bored easily with traditional theatrical manufacturing." Full Review


"There's really nothing in this play that we haven't seen before, but it's a slick, highly polished work with the not so subtle message that greed is not good!...Akhtar fully establishes himself as an extremely insightful writer with an uncanny ability to synthesize our darkest impulses...For all the insidery twists and turns, it's impressively coherent...'Junk' is a familiar story, but for anyone with the stomach and head for another lesson in Wall Street avarice, this one's worth the invest... Full Review


"Mr. Akhtar masterfully weaves together a collection of journalists, lawyers, businessmen, and traders to create a portrait of American wealth that is compelling, illuminating, and relevant all at once...we are witnessing the artistic development of one of America's greatest young playwrights." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“Unless you are a math whiz or a business major, you may be bewildered by the financial concepts...However, as the play unfolds, you will find yourself thoroughly engaged...’Junk’ is fast-moving, with Aaron Sorkin-like dialogue. It is engaging and intelligent. The show is well-directed by Hughes and simply staged...You may not like anyone or even understand the financial lessons, but the themes in the play are repeated year after year." Full Review

The Arts Fuse

"The production replicates the amoral ease generated by the shadowy decisions made by a band of Wall Street newcomers in the 1980s that ultimately landed some of them in jail...Under the spot-on direction of Doug Hughes, the cast of 26 actors moves swiftly through a series of events that revolves around the take-over of Everson Steel...After 'Junk‘s curtain goes down a sad irony hangs in the air: there’s the realization that, all said and done, white collar crime pays." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“The writing borders on Shakespearean in its decidedly Machiavellian discontent. It’s expansive in its dense storytelling, complex in its plot, and concise in its structure...The play, as directed by the always solid Hughes is crisp and precise...’Junk’ is complicated and compelling, but I would add that Akhtar throws all the clichés and stereotypical behavior straight up and neat without a lot of surprises or twists of character." Full Review

New York Theater

"If there’s little that feels unfamiliar or especially timely in 'Junk,' Akhtar has written a reasonably lucid primer on the process and logic of 1980s corporate takeovers...Director Doug Hughes makes the two and a half hours of the play go swiftly...It’s in one way to Akhtar’s credit that he creates no complete villains in 'Junk'...But there are also certainly no heroes." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You enjoy fast paceed, incredibly written theatre.

Don't see it if Have no interest in the content

Clever, Great staging, Intelligent, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if you like an intelligent play with fantastic staging and a fictionalized look on a captivating time in history

Don't see it if you aren't fascinated by the toxic world of finance and wall street

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you read the business pages of your favorite paper. See it if you know what junk bonds are. See it for the intense acting.

Don't see it if Wall Street does not interest you, or you like a play that does not make you think or concentrate on the dialogue.

Also The almost two dozen actors are all pitch perfect. Pasquale is perfect... Read more Read less

One of best plays of the year

See it if you like excellent, brainy play with great acting, great writing, great staging and fast pace. This one hit it out of ballpark!

Don't see it if na

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You'd enjoy a fast paced tale of how Wall Street crooks were ruthless and kept the scheme going until they were finally caught.

Don't see it if You never learned what junk bonds, coupons, poison pills, etc are. But they do explain for the clueless theatergoer.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you enjoy a well acted drama -if you want to be in the know read up on Miliken and the junk bond market

Don't see it if if talky plays are not your thing

Absorbing, Clever

See it if You like one man shows that fully demonstrate the talent of a single actor. John Lithgow played several different characters with at a time.

Don't see it if You do not like one man shows which focus on only a single actor playing many different characters which require concentration on all parts

Absorbing, Great staging, Great writing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if Bravo Steven Pasquale and the entire cast. Relevant to the recently passed tax scheme! Big message - Influence of financial institutions!

Don't see it if If you prefer musicals.

Great acting, Must see, Riveting, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if You want to be in a whirlwind of an evening. Very fast paced and so smartly done.!Acting is great. You won’t be bored!!!

Don't see it if Just see it! You won’t be disappointed.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You like a good show based on real events

Don't see it if You like fluff

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You have even the slightest interest in the stock market and love really great theater.

Don't see it if You think you will have trouble connecting the dots in a very intelligent play

Also The revelations come at you like cannon balls and have tremendous impa... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Very clever

See it if I thought the show hit the mark. It was incisive and original. It told a difficult story very well. See it if you like to think

Don't see it if it your just want to be entertained with a mindless show

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great staging, Relevant

See it if you want to see a fantastic set with non stop action. This show reveals the underbelly of all that was/is wrong wth Wall St.

Don't see it if you do not like a fast paced show that can feel overwhelming at times.

Absorbing, Dizzying, Intense, Ambitious, Intelligent

See it if you remember Michael Milken and his dealings in junk bonds and want to see a reenactment of what he did and what happened

Don't see it if you don't like serious dramas; you might find 22 characters confusing

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if You appreciate excellent acting , writing, and directing. A serious play with a few ironies

Don't see it if You prefer musicals and lighthearted comedies

Riveting, Relevant, Resonant, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You want a lesson in what happened in the Junk Bond Era that lead to the quagmire were in today.

Don't see it if You’re looking for something light and breezy. This is an important piece of theatre that you probably shouldn’t miss.

Also I didn’t see this through ShowScore but I thought it was important eno... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if you want to see a fast-paced, informative play on greed, corruption, and the manipulation of the financial markets.Great acting and staging.

Don't see it if you don't want a realistic education about market manipulation, hostile takeovers, corruption, etc. or just prefer not to think at a show.

Also Having been a Vice President and Department Manager in real time tradi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Must see

See it if you like great acting writing and intelligent theater...timely and dynamic

Don't see it if if you dont like plays that make political statements

Absorbing, Great writing, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if You want to see great acting and staging. If you want to get more insight into the funk bond fiasco

Don't see it if You are expecting lush scenery. If you have no interest in real life drama

Absorbing, Clever, Edgy, Great staging, Great writing

See it if You love a good play with spectacular acting. You believe theater has the ability to influence the way we think...and want proof.

Don't see it if You are easily bored or confused. This is not a play that will hold your hand or wait for you to catch-up.

Absorbing, Great staging, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant

See it if you like a cleverly staged show on how easy it is to be ambitious, greedy and prejudice and, thereby, corrupted and exploited.

Don't see it if you do not like seeing how corrupt, greedy, prejudiced and self-indulgent people can be - especially - by money. ambition and power.

Also The show is screaming out to become a musical. I hope they do so.

Absorbing, Relevant, Riveting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if top notch acting, staging yet informational--fast paced, intelligent and informative theater. A wonderful theater piece.

Don't see it if Have no interest in financial world specifically crises of past few decades and its general impact on US & World economy.

Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great staging, Refreshing

See it if you are interested in learning some things about the manipulation of the financial market. I enjoyed it and learned some history.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play about the financial world.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You have any interest in how leveraging debt through junk bonds created billions in the 1980’s. Excellent acting and very well executed.

Don't see it if You have no interest in, or knowledge of the 1980’s junk bond industry and the billions created.

Great acting, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy real life topics, great acting and an incredible staging

Don't see it if You want a light musical

Cast & Creatives (30)