77

Junk NYC Reviews and Tickets

77%
(449 Reviews)
Positive
83%
Mixed
14%
Negative
3%
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.

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Member Reviews (449)

80
Ambitious, Great acting, Epic, Great staging, Intense

See it if You like plays about big events from history. You are interested in finance. You like plays told from multiple POVs.

Don't see it if You're not interested and/or know little about finance. You prefer to follow 1 character's POV. You prefer a play about contemporary events.

85
Great acting, Relevant, Confusing, Dizzying, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoyed the movies The Big Short or Wall Street, or shows that hold a mirror up to American business practices.

Don't see it if you can’t do heavy, fast-paced “finance talk.” If you’re not business savvy, all hope is not lost. Stretch your ear and you’ll get the gist.

Critic Reviews (51)

November 2nd, 2017

"Almost numbingly safe...'Junk' follows a labyrinthine, economically dense plot with remarkable briskness, efficiency and accessibility. Still, these assets never quite erase the feeling that what we’re watching is a tale we’ve frequently been entertained and alarmed by during the past three decades...The script is refreshingly nonjudgmental...Every major character is allowed to present the viability of his or her viewpoint…Unfortunately, none of them are entirely convincing either."
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November 2nd, 2017

“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.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"'Junk’s' driving tempo, cinematic smash-cuts, and clarity of underlying action undoubtedly hold our attention...It’s a credit to Akhtar, Hughes, and Pasquale’s uncompromising Merkin that 'Junk' doesn’t play as a blanket condemnation of Wall Street and a nostalgic eulogy for Main Street...According to the rules it sets out for itself, 'Junk' wins. But as with Merkin’s victory, the taste is more bitter than sweet. The play’s effect on the heart is a pretty desolate one."
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November 2nd, 2017

"Akhtar is a perceptive writer with an ear for pithy dialogue, so he keeps it engrossing...What he can't do is make us care about these characters, which somewhat limits 'Junk' to the sphere of glossy info-tainment...'Junk' isn't lacking in food for thought, but as drama it's a little dry and unrelentingly talky...The writing is brutal, clever, often witty, and the production sharp as a tack. But many will be left wondering if they really needed this dispiriting recap."
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November 2nd, 2017

"'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."
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November 2nd, 2017

"Doesn’t exactly illuminate the mysterious process whereby corporate marauders...take over companies...What it does do, in this slickly directed production directed by Hughes, is capture the electric energy that fueled these aggressive acquisitions...None of these secondary characters are as fully developed as the two lead players...For a show with far too many people on stage, 'Junk' is actually in need of more people – maybe one or two of them with a heart."
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November 2nd, 2017

"An ensemble so huge that it would have taken a Tom Stoppard —or a Shakespeare—to portray the individual characters as anything other than stick figures. Mr. Akhtar is talented, but not that talented...Doug Hughes has staged it with knock-’em-flat energy, and the production is as smoothly and propulsively wrought as the hostile-takeover plot is familiar...I esteem Mr. Akhtar for writing a big play about a big subject, but 'Junk' is too slick to be fully satisfying."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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."
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November 3rd, 2017

“Hughes evinces no winning strategy here for provoking our outrage, or even finding much drama...Rather than being revelatory...'Junk' feels merely explanatory. The play comes across less as a text emerging thrillingly to life than as a talking textbook. Its impact is further blunted by some odd casting...So much has been invested in keeping things moving and making the story clear, that there doesn’t seem to have been much energy left to make it exhilarating."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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."
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November 2nd, 2017

"A Broadway play that’s accessible, but not illuminating or surprising...Polished but lacks a satisfying punch. A sly little jab at the end isn't the same thing...Doug Hughes directs a crisp and fluid staging...While most characters don’t elude cliches, the acting is uniformly fine...In the end, a loud-ringing message is that the almighty dollar corrupts all. True enough. Then again, we didn’t need 'Junk' to tell us that."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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 momentum."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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 investment."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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. "
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November 13th, 2017

“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.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"Akhtar has done his homework...Akhtar weaves the many threads of his plot into a complex tapestry, played out in a dazzling array of intersecting scenes...'Junk,' well-acted by a fine-tuned ensemble and spinningly directed by Hughes, threatens at times to be engulfed by its complicated story and hand-to-hand combat that reflect Akhtar's research and his efforts at developing the many characters and subplots."
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November 3rd, 2017

“‘Junk’ means to be a crash course in crashing the market...Which means, in terms of stagecraft, that data trumps character…There are nearly two dozen characters running around the play, but none is particularly likeable or memorable. Mind you, that’s not a deal-breaker; 'Junk 'is entertaining stuff…Director Doug Hughes delivers a high-energy staging...But there’s little here you’d call revelatory…Even a fiduciary ignoramus might wonder if 'Junk' tells us anything we don’t already know.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"Directed at the dizzying pace of traders racking up dollars at full froth, and acted by an excellent cast, the play is supremely well-researched, insightful and smart. It is also so conscientiously thorough in its analysis of its subject that it often feels dense to the point of stultifying...The emphasis on the mechanics of deal-making, at the expense of establishing characters we can care much about, leaves 'Junk' with a dramatic balance sheet that’s seriously skewed."
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November 22nd, 2017

“There is something to be said about the well-delineated characters--or cast members--in ‘Junk,’ but that 'something' has more to do with the performances and with Doug Hughes' direction than it does with the writing. As written by Akhtar, ‘Junk’ is a mess and a shambles--as confusing as the recent history it means to recall. One has all one can do to follow the story, which seems to evaporate even as it unfolds.”
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November 6th, 2017

"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."
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November 8th, 2017

"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."
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November 7th, 2017

“This fictionalized account is largely on point — broad strokes, to be sure, but all-in-all accurate in spirit if not detail...The show paints a realistic picture of how it was...There is a huge cast, 24 people in all, some with several roles. All are good, or bad, as they are written. The direction is lively, the effects powerful, and, while set in the ‘80s, the moral desert of the money cult and the latter-day ‘kings’ in towers hold a very current punch. I’d say go.”
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November 14th, 2017

“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."
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November 15th, 2017

“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."
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December 5th, 2017

“The highly anticipated new play does tend to sacrifice intrigue for the sake of entertainment...The script offers no new insight...The predictability diminishes the suspense...A rather lackluster storyline...With a cast numbering twenty-three it is problematic that there is not one persona that the audience can love or for that matter abhor...It will translate as an interesting and fast paced chronicle that is presented in a very impressive package.”
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November 6th, 2017

"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."
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November 25th, 2017

"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."
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November 12th, 2017

“Hughes's production…drives the action like a race car, the engine's roaring captured in the high-decibel, 300-horsepower performances of almost every character. You get little opportunity to ponder the nuances of the complex fiscal and legal patois as Akhtar steers us down the twisting road…Despite the…shiny surfaces, including a sleek, abstract set by John Lee Beatty, the play never fully humanizes the characters or makes Merkin's intrigues all that compelling.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"With its clipped scenes and brisk, brash dialogue, 'Junk' feels poised, and not always easily, between moral tragedy and popcorn thriller. And it can’t quite make up its mind about the man at its center, a stance that seems intellectually honest and dramatically wimpy...'Junk' would be worth a lot more if the audience was given a better sense of what drives Merkin...'Junk' isn’t junk – it’s smart, speedy, often adroit. But an AAA play might dare some answers."
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November 2nd, 2017

"The timing of the play is the problem...The playwright’s consideration of junk-bond king Milken‘s manipulations of the market comes rather late in the day...Akhtar aims for his wrangle with junk bonds as a metaphor for any stripe of shady financial dealings, but that carries neither enough weight nor enough suspense to sustain this two-act piece...He might have racked up more points with something torn more definitively from 2017 headlines."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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.'"
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November 2nd, 2017

"You have to scratch your head in wonderment at why the talented writer of 'Disgraced' bothered with a subject that movies have handled so much more effectively... 'Junk' might have been a guilty pleasure...Instead, Akhtar attempts to explain complicated business deals involving junk bonds and debt, and not for a moment does any actor on stage emerge as anything other than a pale avatar recycled from any of the movies mentioned above...In the theater, greed is now simply tedious."
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November 7th, 2017

"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."
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November 28th, 2017

“’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.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"From the outset, 'Junk' feels too familiar to be original...The characters do not connect with each other...What 'Junk' suffers from—a familiar story, and an even more familiar band of character types—means that you don’t root for anyone, and neither do you despise anyone enough for their misdeeds, because the moral framework of the era and setting sanctioned those misdeeds. The ruthlessness we see in 'Junk' is as by rote as the teary storyline tropes of 'This Is Us.'"
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November 3rd, 2017

"Briskly directed by Hughes...By setting 'Junk' in 1985, just as financial deregulation was taking off, Akhtar reminds us that the basic debt-fuelled structure of US capitalism has barely changed...Comes across as a rebuke to Trumpite economic nationalism. Such high-mindedness serves to round out what would otherwise be a greedy pantomime villain...That dash of moral and political ambiguity also injects tension into what might have been a didactic rehash of old journalism."
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November 10th, 2017

“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."
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December 24th, 2017

“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.”
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November 27th, 2017

"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."
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November 13th, 2017

"There’s a feeling that some heavy lifting was involved in trying to make the play’s themes surrounding ‘80s greed and corruption fresh. No wonder the Hughes-directed production is flashy and energetic, with very little down time or introspection...Akhtar serves some worthy insights about money-based machinations in a world full of oppressions and vulnerabilities, but also some heavy-handed attempts at satirical comment."
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November 2nd, 2017

"It’s territory that’s been well mined on stage and especially film. But considering the economic crises plaguing us since the ’80s, when 'Junk' is set, it’s understandable that Akhtar felt the need to give us his own entertaining if predictable take on the subject...Doug Hughes’ staging moves briskly...Greed, this cautionary tale points out, can be contagious, and that is a frightening message indeed."
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November 2nd, 2017

"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."
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November 8th, 2017

“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.”
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December 1st, 2017

“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.”
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November 3rd, 2017

“The only thing risky about this play is its title...The production is awesomely slick, with shiny black two-tiered sets and crisp direction...Robert Merkin played by a whittled Pasquale, is knife sharp...The character doesn’t offer a whole lot of range, but Pasquale runs the gamut, from A for anger to B for brutality...The drama is brisk, but chilly, and entertaining…enough. The play’s title promises the rich disorder of human life. But in the end, it’s all too tame and tidy.”
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November 2nd, 2017

"It is inaccessible, almost even incomprehensible to the non-finance majors...The costume design and plot structure did nothing to help the audience comprehend the piece...Even the actors who played characters around whom the whole plot turned were often forgettable amid the array of look-alike clones with unmemorable character names and barely distinguished personality traits...It feels more like an economics lecture by an old professor."
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November 6th, 2017

"As confusing as corporate finance can be to the layperson, Akhtar makes everything unfold seamlessly as if it were a fun escapist Hollywood movie...Director Hughes deserves credit for keeping 'Junk' moving at a wonderfully fluid pace, but with so many characters and subplots, the story might have been more focused and powerful with minor trimming of the narrative fat...'Junk' is an entertaining epic but it curiously has nothing new or insightful to say."
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November 2nd, 2017

“If the play doesn’t quite have the visceral impact of Aktar's previous plays, 'Junk' is a carefully-plotted and remarkably balanced piece of writing...What’s missing I think is just a bit of the sexiness and decadence that so characterized the era. It’s all just a but too tidy, and the foreshadowing of the recent financial crisis I think is a bit heavy-handed. Nevertheless, 'Junk' represents a brave and major stylistic departure for the fiercely intelligent Mr. Akhtar.”
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December 7th, 2017

"Helmed by Doug Hughes, the drama unfolds as docudrama about the junk bond debacle of the '80s...However, if you like I, did not understand the junk bond market then, you are no more likely to understand it after seeing this production. Why and how it happened exactly seem to matter less than the personalities of the perpetrators. In 'Junk,' Steven Pasquale, boldly imparts qualities of curiosity and mischief into the driven mastermind of the debt trading game."
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November 17th, 2017

"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."
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