Review: The Next ‘God of Carnage’: ‘Subprime’ Industry Reading

Thomas Burns Scully

One of the perks of being a reviewer is that sometimes you get to be there at the start of things, but way before the start. Today I was among a select group of press and industry that was invited to a producers’ and investors’ reading of a new play: ‘Subprime’ by Beck Lee. The talent involved already is staggering, the cast list included: Geneva Carr (‘Hand to God’), Jeremy Holm (‘House of Cards’, ‘Mr. Robot’), Joe Tapper (‘You Can’t Take it With You’), Kathy Searle (‘Fringe’ ‘Gossip Girl’) and Julian Cihi (‘Doctor Zhivago’). Director Alice Jankell has worked with Disney, Elaine Stritch and the Public Theatre. Writer/Producer Beck Lee, also a well known man about town, on and off Broadway, has assembled something special here. As it is still in development, I will be a little spartan with details about ‘Subprime’, but I hope the information I can provide will serve to whet the appetite.

Lee’s play follows the story of two married couples from Minneapolis taking a city break to New York. The year is 2008 and the global economic recession looms. In their hotel suite they enjoy a pleasant post-sightseeing drink. Drinks gradually escalate to snacks, which escalate to ice cream, which escalate to dark revelations and criminal behavior. Events take on a classic ‘Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, ‘God of Carnage’ feel as they descend further and further in to the weird and woeful depths of human behavior. The veil of civility is pulled gently in to the dirt and then not so gently stamped upon by all involved. It’s all rather good to watch.

As you would expect, the cast here are all excellent, lending incredible credence to the script, even within the restrictions of a staged reading. They are more than willing to mire themselves in the silly debauchery of the story, giving it a touch of warmth and fun that could so easily end up missing from a script like this. That’s often the trap of cynical plays of this kind, they will become so mired in creating horrible human beings that the characters become unsympathetic and unlikable. ‘Subprime’ does not fall in to this trap. The cast refuse to let this happen, and so does the text. It’s incredibly heartening, whilst remaining twisted, broken and fun.

Like most in development works, the script needs a few tweaks for pacing, and within the limits of a staged reading certain sections of the play are still only part-realized. However, watching ‘Subprime’ you very much get the sense that this show is ready to go, ready to move to, literally, the next stage. If you think you might at all be interested in watching the next ‘God of Carnage’ take shape, then you owe it to yourself to give ‘Subprime’ a look when it takes to Off-Broadway later in the year. It’s a show that’s going to get talked about, so I’m going to start talking now.

‘Subprime’ is currently at an industry development stage. For updates as to when it will make its premiere, or to consider investing in the show, see

This preview was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded in TimeOut NY and the New York Times, and his writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man. 

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