BWW Review: 4615 Theatre Company's ENRON at Dance Loft on 14
Enron, written by British playwright Lucy Prebble, had a short run on Broadway, but had a successful run on the West End. American audiences and critics at the time didn't quite see the appeal of a play based on the notorious Enron scandal because it hit too close to home. The play returns to the States for the first time in almost a decade with 4615 Theatre Company's DC premiere of Enron. The timing couldn't have been better. 4615 Theatre Company's Enron, directed by Jordan Friend, is an entertaining, satirical glimpse into a whirlwind scandal. The play focuses on the Texas energy corporation, Enron, its triumphs, and its failures from 1996 until 2006. In Prebble's play, Enron's Ken Lay (Nick Torres) is looking for Enron's next president. He ultimately passes on Claudia Roe (Amanda Forstrom) for Jeff Schilling (Andrew Scott Zimmer). Jeff takes over Enron and applies the survival of the fittest mentality to the corporate culture. He eventually appoints Andy Fastow (Charlie Cook) as his CFO. Jeff and Andy hatch a plan to get Enron a "mistress" in the formation of LJM. Let's just say from there - the raptors are unleashed.
The production's intimate setting puts the audience very close to the action and actors. This intimacy doesn't hinder the play at all. In fact, it enhances it. You can see every detail and catch things that you might not have otherwise in a larger theatre space such as the raptor masks which are composed of spreadsheets to Ken sporting ostrich leather shoes. The set, designed by Kathryn Kawecki, allows the actors to define and transform space using desks, chairs, and blinds. Throughout the play, small TV screens show clips of events and pivotal turning points in the American economy such as the 2000 election, Alan Greenspan's "irrational exuberance" speech, and the fall of Enron's stock.
The intimate staging and complimentary visuals paired with the cast's electric energy is what makes Enron stand out. The dramatic tension often lies between the core cast of Forstrom's ambitious Claudia, Torres' cigar-smoking Ken, Cook's eccentric Andy, and Zimmer's overly confident Jeff. The work relationships between these four are could easily remind one of a dysfunctional family. Ken's comment about how the "company and family should be considered the same" rings true. Claudia strives to get her power plant in India, much to the displeasure of Jeff who thinks that Ken, the grandfather figure, is just giving her what she wants. Jeff and Andy are like brothers in some ways. They argue with each other, but also support each other's ideas. During a tense meeting at the gym, Jeff gives Andy, who is struggling to keep up with the treadmill's speed, a brotherly lecture about Darwinism as he is trying to encourage him to be "the fittest."
Although there is "family" drama, there are layers of quirky humor thrown in to create a great satire about money and economics surrounding the scandal. Andy's explanation of hedging in which he talks about airplanes and cars and his use of boxes to explain his "Raptors," played by Jon Jon Johnson, Ezra Tozian, and Rachel Manteuffelplan, makes serious subjects become funny. There are moments where the Raptors steal the show with their antics of consuming the debt. Not only are there velociraptors, there are also parodies of big banks such as two-headed bowtied Lehman Brothers, a stock analyst barbershop quartet, blind lawyers, a ventriloquist dummy, and a board of "blind mice".
Although Enron focuses heavily on Jeff and the scandal, it also accounts for its impact on the employees who lost their livelihoods and the American economy. Prebble's inclusion of this is important as it shows the consequences didn't just impact the key players in the scandal.
4615 Theatre Company's Enron is a must-see.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
4615 Theatre Company's Enron runs until September 1, 2019 at the Dance Loft on 14 - 4618 14th St NW, Washington, DC.