Monday, May 13, 2013
Theater review: Enron sardonically tells of the minds behind the corporation’s collapse
There are no heroes in this story.
DALLAS Enron is a feisty, playful satire, gripping and pissed and melancholy. Seizing Jeffrey Skilling as its protagonist, it is as much a cautionary reflection on man’s ability to justify any and all actions, as a depiction of Enron’s arrogance in taking its employees down with it. At least the Titanic provided lifeboats. Initially, Skilling seems like a dreamer, a visionary, but as events fail to support his vague ideology, we witness the extremes he’ll embrace to secure vindication. It must be pointed out, as well, the deep streak of male warrior code or (depending on how you look at it) misogyny, running through the piece. Mind you, it’s being mocked. Whether its watching Claudia Roe wipe her leg after sex, or a plastic phallus dangling from a stock trader in male drag, the urgency of male dominance is an unmistakable ingredient in the chemistry that fuels this bizarre docucomedy.
There’s a determined ambivalence behind the narrative we’re witnessing. Certain scenes occur, and on some level we understand there’s something contemptible and ridiculous about what we’re witnessing. Even (perhaps especially) when it’s sad or dead serious. And there are outright, surreal gags. Andy Fastow, the painfully insecure co-pilot to Skilling's perilous journey, adopts raptor skeletons as his familiars. Soon the marionettes become characters of a sort. Enron board members include Three Blind Mice (pinstripes and enormous mouse heads with dark glasses) and The Lehman Brothers appear as two guys in one capacious suit. Prebble has achieved the task of layering metaphors and events with several meanings. There’s something facetious and unsettling about seeing board members as jittery rodents. When Ken Lay chooses Skilling to be his successor by explaining to Claudia Roe, “you know I always favored you,” it’s surprising and not surprising. It’s touching and nauseating.
Director Jeffrey Schmidt has assembled an impressive, poised harmonious cast for Enron, with its ambiguous tone well-known details. Like many audience members (I imagine), I longed to comprehend what drove Enron to a self-ignited calamity of such epic proportions, and this show does not disappoint. It reveals the desperation and dynamics behind this now historic catastrophe (or at least, speculates rationally) with wit, insight, humanity, and inventiveness. It moves quickly and purposefully, but also makes room for amusement. I think if Prebble had attempted Enron as tragedy, it might have been met with contempt. By the end, Skilling doesn’t come off as a hero with a fatal flaw, but a weasel whose moment had come and gone.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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