The hit London play about the rise and fall of energy giant Enron arrives on Broadway with its own share of irrational exuberance. To its credit, Lucy Prebble’s interesting, if fictionalized, script for Enron manages to make, say, mark-to-market accounting comprehensible. And there are several clever touches, from the depiction of the Lehman Brothers as Siamese twins in a single suit to the reappropriation of the company’s ”Ask Why” slogan — the show even lifts three suited men with ”blind mice” head masks from a now-notorious Enron TV commercial.
The central figures in the corporate conspiracy are presented in the broadest possible strokes: There’s geek-turned-wunderkind Jeffrey Skilling (Norbert Leo Butz); his younger, sycophantic numbers guy Andy Fastow (Stephen Kunken); and the somewhat aloof Enron chairman Kenneth Lay (24’s Gregory Itzin). But Prebble also invents Claudia Roe (Marin Mazzie), a fictional character who serves as Skilling’s in-house competition and (briefly) his mistress. Yes, Enron takes a few liberties with its story.
One understands the desire to goose material that is both potentially dry and well past its sell-by date. (In the wake of AIG and Bernie Madoff and Lehman Brothers’ own collapse, doesn’t the Enron scandal seem so 2001?) But subtlety gets lost in the process: At one point, Butz’s Skilling literally stomps his foot like a petulant 2-year-old when Lay sides with Roe in a corporate dispute — an over-the-top gesture that undercuts any effort by the production to make its characters more than cardboard stand-ins for American Big Business excess and immaturity. Goold further muddles the satire with kitchen-sink showmanship, employing everything from a barbershop quartet of traders to a mini-ballet by lightsaber-wielding execs. He even creates anthropomorphized ”raptors” to represent the shady debt-laden shell companies that led to Enron’s ultimate unraveling. We see Fastow and Skilling kill the raptors at the end, but there’s no real-world explanation of what they’re doing; Goold is too caught up in his theatrical conceit to serve the fact-based story he’s trying to tell. Too often, in fact, Enron plays like 60 Minutes on acid. B?
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