Enron: a flashy theatrical kaleidoscope that is highly entertaining.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Categories: Professional Theatre

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Photo: Metro News Fils.

In Enron (the play) the smoke and mirrors of Enron (the company) have been transformed into a highly entertaining and flashy theatrical kaleidoscope.

The energy company went from stock market darling to massive bankruptcy disaster — the largest in American corporate history — in 2001. CEO Jeffrey Skilling may even have believed that his “powerhouse of ideas” and the possibility of trading energy as well as supplying it could keep the company afloat. He may have trusted his CFO Andy Fastow, as they developed shadow companies to absorb and hide Enron’s debt in a system likened to small and smaller Russian dolls, nested inside each other.

On the other hand, Skilling and Fastow may have been cynical crooks, perfectly aware that their shell game would eventually collapse and trusted that they, at least, would escape financially unscathed. Meanwhile, the board members, the company’s lawyers and accountants and even the majority of the employees, enjoying the early fruits of stock options in lieu of real money, remained intentionally blind to the possibility/probability of fraudulent practices.

Award-winning playwright Lucy Prebble’s approach to this “true story of false profits” is to deliver a fast-paced series of vignettes, incorporating music, dance, masks, three-dimensional metaphors – in the form of blind mice and raptors borrowed from Jurassic Park — vaudeville and circus stylings. Video sequences and a constant stream of stock prices over the two-storey set are also part of the action. Fantasy was as much part of the business model as it is a key part of the concept of translating the rise and fall of the energy company to the stage.

With director Ron Jenkins, assisted by an effective technical team, at the helm, the NAC production of Enron is exciting and engaging theatre. It is satisfying to watch the smooth flow from one sequence to the next, with most of the ensemble playing multiple roles. Dance sequences are well choreographed and executed and comic moments — particularly the Siamese-twin Lehman brothers — are very funny.

In this production — unlike the evidence of their previous two shows — the NAC Ensemble gathered for the 2013-14 English Theatre season seem at ease and are generally more effective than some of the company were in Tartuffe and The Sound of Music. Occasionally, Dmitry Chepovetsky appears a little ‘underwhelming’ as Skilling and Joey Tremblay favours caricature over characterization as Ken Lay, but the general impression is of cohesion and collective solidarity.

Petrina Bromley delivers an effective portrayal of Skilling’s tough rival, Claudia Roe — the only staff member willing to talk truth to power — and Eric Davis manages to bring some sympathetic aspects to his characterization of Andy Fastow.

In all, this high-energy production of Enron delivers a powerfully entertaining evening of theatre, filled with sparks.

Enron continues at the NAC Studio to March 1, 2014.

Enron

By Lucy Prebble

National Arts Centre English Theatre

Director: Ron Jenkins

Set and costumes: Brian Smith

Lighting: Michael Watson

Sound: Matthew Skopyk

Choreographer: Laura Krewski

Videos: James Nesbitt

Cast:

Claudia Roe/Board Mouse/Trader…………………….Petrina Bromley

Lawyer/Board Mouse/Trader/Raptor etc……………..Christine Brubaker

Jeffrey Skilling………………………………………..Dmitry Chepovetsky

Board Mouse/Trader/Analyst etc. …………………… David Coomber

Andy Fastow/Funeral guest…………………………..Eric Davis

Board Mouse/Skilling’s daughter/Raptor etc…………Leah Doz

Trader/Arthur Anderson/Lehman Brother etc………..Sheldon Elter

Trader/Journalist/Court Officer etc…………………..Quancetia Hamilton

Board Mouse/Trader/Raptor etc………………………Eliza-Jane Scott

Ken Lay/Lehman Brother etc…………………………Joey Tremblay


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