Review: Laugh and learn, ENRON exasperates as it entertains
“That was wild—and I learned a lot!”
That was just one of many comments being bantered about by an audience clearly still engaged by what they had just seen, even as they exited the theater. The crowd was abuzz as they exited the opening night performance of ENRON at Capital Stage, a few younger members openly agitated by what they had learned about the nefarious dealings and demise of the energy giant.
“[News Report] ‘California’s power supply came up short today, and the lights went out. Rolling blackouts have hit the sixth largest economy in the world. For the first time in sixty-five years, the electric power market is in chaos. Electricity rates are climbing and California has gone into meltdown.’
[Jeff Skilling, President, ENRON] ‘You know the difference between the state of California and the Titanic? At least when the Titanic went down the lights were on.’”
If it were my production, I would consider it an ideal audience reaction.
The script, written by Lucy Prebble, and first performed in Chichester—who, after all, knows Texas big business like a British chick—is exceedingly clever and well put together. It relies on a few pivotal actors and a small company of well-utilized support players. The set is minimal as well, a rolling desk, and stools, but uses music and graphics, along with timely news footage to move the story forward. What might be a very dry—albeit infuriating—story, is anything but.
At Capital Stage, director Stephanie Gularte and choreographer Shannon Mahoney (who also performed as Claudia Roe) made good use of the space and created a well choreographed impressively staged work of art about business.
Choreography? Indeed. This is not a typical commentary on greed and loathing in Texas.
There are dance numbers, singing, and four-part harmonies.
There are strange things that have to be worn on one’s head, and a lot of running about.
This is not a play for the weak of cardiovascular!
All of the players entered and exited and spun furniture, performing transitions that were at times like nothing so much as a macabre homage to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In.
The ensemble, with standout performances by Lucinda Hitchcock Cone and Michael Stevenson—were exceedingly energetic and consistent on opening night, not to mention versatile. Mahoney made savvy sexy as Claudia Roe, and Jonathon Rhys Williams as Jeffrey Skilling, was adept at never quite owning the charisma the media wanted to assign him, remaining at heart the brilliant but bullied strategist, the nihilistic nerd.
“[Skilling] If you have an idea, if you sign a deal, say that we’re gonna provide someone with a supply of champagne for the next few years at a set price, every month or whatever—Then that definite future income can be valued, at market prices today, and written down as earnings the moment the deal is signed. We don’t have to wait for the grapes to be grown and squashed.”
“That was wild– and I learned a lot!”
This is a very strong beginning to the second season for Capital Stage in the new venue on J Street.
If only the financial industry had had the same reaction to ENRON the Event that theater-goers had to ENRON the play!
ENRON will be performed Wednesday through Saturday evenings, with Sunday matinees, through October 21st. Capital Stage is located at 2215 J Street. ENRON contains adult themes and content. Tickets and more information at www.capstage.org.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional show information after publishing.