note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Good things come in small packages, and Zeitgeist’s clever, multimedia production of “Enron” is a sensational example of that adage.
In fact, this two-act British expose’ of the American world of high finance and its collapse, currently appearing in the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Black Box Theatre, adds clout to Lucy Prebble’s play, placing it squarely in your face.
You don’t have to understand the inner workings of the world of finance, stocks, bonds, hedge funds, investors and analysts interwoven in the political machinery. In her play that’s based on fact, Prebble explains buzz words and goings-on, financial chicanery, and greed-driven, shady dealings surrounding the scandalous giant energy company’s rise, its financial turmoil, collapse, and aftermath.
The play premiered in England in 2009 and had a brief run on Broadway, but didn’t garner much attention until afterward, when it won awards and caught the public’s eye. Although Wall Street and government officials weren’t fond of this British take on America’s financial world of smoke-and-mirrors, Prebble places the blame on those financial wizards and white collar thieves who thought they were above the law, above reproach, and considered themselves more intelligent than the “ignorant” government and public. While the world blamed the stock market’s near collapse on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, high-line frauds like Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and Ken Lay were lining their pockets with millions of dollars, saying hell-be-damned to everyone else.
After energy crises and blackouts throughout California in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these corporate giants drove energy prices through the roof after getting electricity deregulated. They created an anti-gas pipeline culture that had nothing behind it. They “gamed the market,” trading energy; hedged stocks; pulled the wool over Arthur Andersen’s and the Lehman Brothers’ auditors and lawyers. They even played footsies with politicians in the highest offices (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, for example) to get legislation approved that would spike stock prices.
As usual, Zeitgeist Director David Miller has created a blockbuster show with a terrific cast, using stars from his former slick production of “Farragut North,” including Victor Shopov as Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and Bill Salem as Enron’s primary executive, Ken Lay. This talented cast of 15 that includes Greg Ferrisi as Enron CFO Andy Fastow and Erin Cole as Enron executive Claudia Roe is powerful and engrossing.
Miller, who also designed the set, converted the theater’s small black space into a multimedia, neon-lit, pulsating space, aided by innovative lighting designer Jeff Adelberg. On the back wall, a movie screen emblazons the crooked E insignia of Enron Corp. Authentic footage of people, places, events that are pertinent to the rise and fall of the massive energy corporation and its aftermath enhance this production.
Greek choruses between key scenes chant phrases and songs, including “The Star Spangled Banner,” sporting sunglasses and dressed in corporate black and white, with crimson touches. A few ensemble members wear head masks of white mice in sunglasses, while three personified creatures in dinosaur-type masks represent bogus companies Fastow created to offload Enron’s debt.
Presented as a “financial vaudeville,” Zeitgeist’s production is provocative, intelligent, a dramatic coup with a superlative cast. “Enron” is a stirring envisioning of a crooked plot that mushroomed and blew the financial world to pieces. And we haven’t recovered from it yet.
BOX INFO: Two-act, 2-1/2 hour play, written by Lucy Prebble, presented by Zeitgeist, directed by Artistic Director David Miller. Appearing through October 16 at the Plaza Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances are Wednesday,Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. Tickets are $30; seniors, students, $20; Wednesday night, Pay-What-You-Can, $7 minimum. Tickets available at the Box Office, 527 Tremont St., by calling 617-933-8600, or at BostonTheatreScene.com.