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Enron

Rupert Goold's production of Lucy Prebble's play about the collapse of the famed energy company is heavy on the razzle-dazzle.

By New York City
Norbert Leo Butz in Enron
(© Joan Marcus)
Norbert Leo Butz in Enron
(© Joan Marcus)
The challenge of disguising a stage documentary so it doesn't look like one gets wrestled to the ground by playwright Lucy Prebble and director Rupert Goold in Enron, which -- after making several acclaimed stops in England -- has come to Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre with an all-American cast giving it the old razzle-dazzle.

The pair's approach involves, among other inventions, festooning the basic facts of the dismaying collapse of the Texas-based energy company -- a slap in the face to corporate America and the beginning of early 21st-century's economic woes -- with several high-energy musical interludes choreographed by Scott Ambler and executed with athletic precision by the triple-threat troupe. There are also cast members tapping around the stage as the fabled Three Blind Mice to make a point about executive-level obtuseness, along with four at-the-ready players who put on raptor heads to help illustrate the status of a particularly egregious debt-masking ploy dreamed up within the swanky Enron walls.

Adding to the glitzy proceedings are the myriad multimedia effects by video and projection designer Jon Driscoll ribboning across Anthony Ward's sleek set, which is also distinguished regularly by 16 fluorescent lights hung to the stage floor and raised from it in a four-by-four grid and often shifting mockingly to red-white-and-blue patterns.

The abundant frou-frou is all in the service of a loose and basically satiric retelling of how Enron bigwigs Jeffrey Skilling (the always creative Leo Norbert Butz), Kenneth Lay (a gleefully wily Gregory Itzin), and Andy Fastow (a clumsily cunning Stephen Kunken) schemed to make their expanding energy company look as if it were bringing in profits expected to materialize that never did.

From the get-go, it's made clear that Skilling was running the Enron show with his supply of seemingly ingenious, though eventually unsuccessful, ideas on how the company could grow by trading commodities rather than owning them. Initially presented as a eye-scrunching nerd, Skilling transforms into a lubricious mogul who ruthlessly undercuts his only rival for Lay's favor, Claudia Roe (the hard-edged, sexy Marin Mazzie), a woman with whom he's dallied on office desktops.

Without question, Skilling is the prime culprit in Enron's eventual fall -- but part of the blame belongs to Lay, who removes himself from the tough decisions, preferring to keep in touch with his friend in the White House or occupying himself with decorating quandaries concerning the company jet. Still, Prebble's most noticeable drawback in this high-wattage undertaking is that she never probes very deeply into Skilling's tragic-figure psyche, although she may think she does by inserting two cute scenes with his precocious daughter (Mary Stewart Sullivan at some performances, Madisyn Shipman at others).

Still, Prebble does save Skilling's best for last: a pedagogic speech about the positive aspects of economic bubbles -- delivered with stentorian aplomb by Butz and backed by one last indelible Driscoll projection -- that will send audiences out of the theater thinking disturbing thoughts instead of tapping their toes.


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