It’s difficult to get your mind around the schemes that took Enron from just another oil and gas company to a $110 billion corporation created and sustained by accounting fraud – and that precipitated the biggest bankruptcy in American history, sending three of its executives to prison.
Playwright Lucy Prebble’s “Enron” brings this economic disaster to the stage in its local premiere at Moxie Theatre through Dec. 7. Jennifer Eve Thorn directs.
“Enron” is a farcical, comedic dramatization of what happened – or something like what happened. As narrator/Lawyer (James P. Darvas) says, “When we tell this story, you should know it could never be exactly what happened. But we’re gonna put it together and sell it to you as the truth.”
Jeffrey Skilling is at the center of this tale of greed, corruption and unbelievable profit. Skilling (Max Macke) had worked for Enron in various capacities as a consultant and division head, but in 1997 he was named president and CEO by Enron chairman Ken Lay (Mark C. Petrich).
Skilling hired Andy Fastow (Eddie Yaroch), presented here as your garden-variety crook (but with an understanding of finance). Skilling unleashes Fastow to do his financial magic (creating profit on paper without actually dealing with money or product), ignoring ethics, morality or any sense of fairness – until it becomes clear that gaming this system isn’t working and bankruptcy is imminent.
But before the fall, Enron gets an assist from Pete Wilson, then governor of California, as the state deregulated electricity. That gave Enron the chance to move electricity out of state and sell it back to California at such an absurd markup that the state had a huge energy crisis while Enron raked in profits.
Tim Nottage’s revolving-door set and projections of late-’90s people and events (Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Alan Greenspan) set the scene and the assorted suits do the rest. Only one female executive figures here – an imaginary Claudia Roe (Lisel Gorell-Getz, in a terrific performance), an amalgam of a few women in the company, one of whom lost out to Skilling for the CEO position.
Macke’s arrogant Skilling – whose only concern was profitability – is maddening, just as he should be, with his monomoniacal drive to make a killing.
Yaroch is insistent, reptilian and almost a little scary as Fastow, whose skill in financial shenanigans was matched only by his lack of ethics.
If your brain glazes over at the mention of economics (I know the feeling), fear not: Prebble wants to amuse, not teach you, and she does it with engaging characters, snappy dialogue, dance (credit Javier Velasco) and three amazingly costumed Raptors (credit Jennifer Brawn Gittings) to “eat” Enron’s debt. Oh, and three blind mice representing Enron’s board members, who pretended not to know what was going on. It’s quite a spectacle.
Corruption of this magnitude is probably best handled with a comic touch. Otherwise, we’d all go home with indigestion.
“Enron” plays through Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N., San Diego, California.
Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.