First round: Broadway is off the mark with Dry Powder

First Round took an evening off to spend time at the theatre, attending the premiere of the second production of Dry Powder, a play about a fictional buyout firm.

While the first production featured high-profile actors Claire Danes, John Krasinski and Hank Azaria, the return had a much lower profile, starring unknown actors – albeit talented ones – in a 35-seat theatre in the basement of the Drama Book Shop in Midtown Manhattan. It was clearly not oversubscribed.

The story goes as follows: two partners try to convince their boss at New York-based KMM Capital Management to invest in a company but with drastically different approaches.

Jenny wants to strip the business, offshore the production of Landmark Luggage’s suitcases to Bangladesh, cut personnel, leverage the company at 80 percent and do a dividend recap within months – all to maximise returns for KMM’s limited partners. 

Seth meanwhile wants to guarantee jobs at the company and focus on value creation in co-operation with its chief executive. He’d also rather stay under the radar of newspapers that are targeting the firm for the founder’s recent lavish engagement party – with elephants – which took place just as one of its portfolio companies saw massive layoffs.

First Round had a few chuckles and enjoyed some witty and sarcastic lines, like Jenny’s musing on bad publicity: “Do we work in PR? I feel like I accidentally work in PR.”

The writer, Sarah Burgess, has done her research; the script is laced with PE-appropriate lingo. But while she seems to be criticising the mainstream media for perpetuating clichés about private equity, the play’s conclusion is far more Hollywood than real life.

KMM’s LPs refuse capital calls and force the firm to turn to a deep-pocketed, but clearly corrupt, Hong Kong high net worth individual for cash, while the chief executive of Landmark Luggage decides to forgo saving his employees for the sake of his bonus. 

And so they live, greedily ever after.