By Lucy Prebble
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago
Highly theatrical, fast-paced drama about the rise and fall of Enron
TimeLine Theatre’s 50th production is another historical drama adding to their long list of exciting productions. with director Rachel Rockwell, a musical director and choreographer, at the helm, Enron has some unique, quite theatrical staging to underscore the dynamic story of Enron Corporation. The fast-paced scenes include symbolic costumes, mini-manic business action scenes with historical context from Mike Tutaj’s video projections.
Rockwell’s engaging production makes the rise and fall of a business giant come to life with action as we meet and see the interactions and personalities of the principal players who guided and manipulated questionable business practices into an elaborate and sophisticated shell game that produced the illusion of a profitable company. Enron became the most infamous scandal in financial history of American commerce.
The tone of Enron moves effectively from high drama to savage comedy as we witness the greed and ambition of men and woman revealed in secret meetings and strategy sessions. Enron’s style allows the audience to gain information about complex business practices such as arbitrage, derivatives, hedging, and mark-to-market actions. We learn how creative accounting structures can hide losses in an effort to stabilize the stock prices of Enron. Smart, sharp dialogue with entertaining theatricality gave those dry topics life and clarity.
The superb casting included Bret Tuomi playing the manic and charismatic Enron president – Jeffrey Skilling. His grandiose vision allowed him to rationalize his schemes to create wealth before there was actual wealth. Tuomi’s energetic and highly emotional command of his role anchors the drama. As he comes apart, Tuomi is most tragically human as the fallen leader. Amy Matheny plays Claudia Roe, Skilling’s rival to lead Enron while Sean Fortunato plays the weird nerdy financial wizard Andrew Fastow – the clever slight-of-hand account who creates the structure for Enron’s illusion of profits when there were only losses. Fortunato uses his amazing comic skills to give Fastow a psychotic delusional dimension. Terry Hamilton plays the CEO of Enron Kenneth Lay as the patriarch who delegates authority while keeping the big picture alive.
The inter dynamics in the rush for power, greed and ego are vividly dramatized with doses of dark humor and emotional melt downs in this provocative and enlightening theatrical event. Leaving Enron, I had a better understanding of just how and why the giant company crumbled. The details play like a cautionary tale demanding more government oversight. After all, the thousands of investors and employees’ loves were ruined by the fraudulent business practices of the energy giant. As a theatre work, Enron is tad too anecdotal at times but ultimately delivers the complex story nicely.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 28, 2012
For more info checkout the Enron page on theatreinchicago.com
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8463, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $32 – $42, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through April 15, 2012