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Wednesday, 12 May 2010 23:43

Broadway Review: ENRON

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Norbert Leo Butz as Jeffrey Skilling in Enron
Photo: Joan Marcus
As I write this it is closing day for Enron, just two weeks after opening.  I guess the public wasn't ready for a play about the collapse of an American giant and the impact it had on thousands of lives.  I'd venture a guess that Americans are just weary of it all. 

I saw the play this past week and actually found it fascinating.  That something as complex as what brought down this behemoth could be reduced to such an easy to understand couple of concepts is a testament to the playwright, Lucy Prebble.  Unfortunately, that is also a part of the plays troubles.  It fancifully expounds on what happened, but in general terms.  The play established the corporate culture at Enron with director Rupert Goold creating a carnival-like feel to the proceedings.

The play was a big hit in the West End.  One could attribute the disparity in its reception on this side of the pond to the idea that for the British it was merely a cautionary tale.  For us, it was a mirror on our own reality and the current proceedings against Goldman Sachs have once again raised questionable financial practices back into the public eye.  That reality may be changing for England as Greece, Spain and other European Union countries find their houses are built on sand. 

This production was extremely stylish.  It was a futuristic black-box set whose entire back wall was a video wall you could see through like a scrim.  The splendid set and costume design was by Anthony Ward.  The video and projection design by Jon Driscoll aptly set the time period.  There was a board of directors represented by three men with blind mice heads and white canes and debt consuming dinosaurs with red glowing eyes.  It was all really quite fantastical.  There was music, dancing, singing and a musical number with lightsabers.

The Enron cast with lightsabers
Photo: Joan Marcus
While you left understanding what happened, you also left asking yourself why it took two hours and forty minutes to understand the situation in such a rudimentary way.  There were visual distractions and razzle dazzle moments aplenty which elongated but didn't necessarily propel the story forward.

Norbert Leo Butz was Jeffrey Skilling, the socially-awkward genius who rose to become the president of one of the largest companies in the world, Enron.   He was also largely responsible for its demise.  Gregory Itzin was cold and callous as Ken Lay, Enron's CEO.  In a terrific performance that has subsequently earned him a Tony Award nomination, Stephen Kunken as Andy Fastow was sensational.  Fastow was the raptor-raising mastermind behind the "black box" shadow company that would hold Enron's debt.  Marin Mazzie as the ficticious Claudia Roe holds her own as she matches the men mano e mano and between the sheets. 

In an odd turn, Enron has been nominated for a Best Score Tony Award.  I think that really sums up the musicals category this season.  I mean no disrespect to the composer of Enron's music, Adam Cork but the music in this production doesn't rise to the level of a "score." 

Enron also received three other Tony Award nominations, Mark Henderson for Best Ligthing, Mr. Cork for Best Sound Design and as previously mentioned, Mr. Kunken for Best Featured Actor in a Play.  It will be interesting to see how it does on June 13th.  The production looked like a million bucks (but probably cost more).  I applaud Ms. Prebble for even attempting to chronicle this debacle.  I also applaud the producers for Bringing it to Broadway. 


View full production credits at the Internet Broadway Database
Last modified on Friday, 18 June 2010 11:37