La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘Junk’ headed to Broadway


As the La Jolla Playhouse-launched musical “Come From Away” prepares for its Broadway debut in less than two weeks, another Playhouse-developed work has just been announced for a Broadway run of its own.

Ayad Akhtar’s “Junk: The Golden Age of Debt,” which had its world premiere in La Jolla last summer, will begin performances at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater on Sept. 14, with an official opening set for Oct. 12.

The play, an epic drama set among the New York high-finance scene of the 1980s, will be the second Playhouse-bred Akhtar work to head to New York, after “The Who & The What” in 2014.

Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013 with “Disgraced,” his story of New Yorkers grappling with issues of religion, politics and the specter of terrorism. (The playwright is of Pakistani-American heritage, and has often included elements of the Muslim experience in his work.)

“Disgraced” received its local debut at San Diego Rep in October.

“Junk,” directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes, is nominated for four awards (including outstanding new play) at tonight’s Craig Noel Awards, presented by the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle.

The play’s transfer from San Diego to Broadway is an unusually quick one.

“Most things take years to get to New York,” said Michael Rosenberg, the Playhouse’s managing director. “But the combination of the fact this is such a well-crafted play, (and) that the play was so well received here, and also the timing of the importance of having this kind of conversation about economics at this particular moment, I think is pretty spectacular.”

Rosenberg noted that Akhtar’s “The Who & The What” was programmed for the first edition of the Playhouse’s DNA New Work Series before the playwright won the Pulitzer for “Disgraced.”

“His was (also) the first play to come of the series and go straight into production,” Rosenberg said. “And so he really set that bar for us.

“He very much views the Playhouse as an artistic home.”

In a San Diego Union-Tribune interview last summer, Akhtar said that while religion is less overtly a part of the storyline in “Junk” than in some of his past plays, it’s still present in the sense that “the lords of finance and the high priests of finance won our minds” starting in the 1980s. “Because our lives now are completely dominated by finance.

“There’s also this notion of immigrant struggle. One of the stories of the ‘80s is a rising immigrant class within the world of finance, whether it was the Jewish financiers or Italian-American prosecuting attorney (Rudolph) Giuliani,” who later became New York’s mayor.

“Mergers and acquisitions became a tool to pull apart an economy that came from one era and was suited to that way of life, and to remake it. So that battle is very much onstage - minorities and immigrants moving their way up.”

“Junk” is set to become the 29th Playhouse-connected show to hit Broadway, after “Come From Away” and then “Indecent” in April.

The Jimmy Buffett-centric musical “Escape to Margaritaville,” which has its world premiere at the Playhouse in May, is poised to become No. 30 when it heads to New York next year.
Twitter: @jimhebert;