Thursday, May 6, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Enron

Photo by Joan Marcus
Love the Set and the Raptors, but Enron Fails to Make Me Want to Invest My Time
By Lauren Yarger
The story of the fall of Enron is depressing and no amount of flashy lights, cool video projections, amusing songs or even people walking around in Jurassic Park raptor heads can save it from itself, much like the corporate giant itself tried and failed to do, though all of the above give this production a “wow” factor unusual with Broadway plays.

The real Enron, recreated here by playwright Lucy Prebble, went down in flames in 2001 when investors discovered that the energy company had no real assets and that fake companies had been sustaining its debt. This production saw sold-out success in London before transferring to New York, but it didn’t find an audience here (or a Tony Award nomination for Best Play), so the producers, who ironically will lose a ton of money invested in the show, have announced it will close Sunday after only 22 previews and 16 performances.

Who can explain exactly why the Brits embraced the tale and why New York audiences have stayed away (literally – the house was sparse when I attended)?
Well, perhaps it’s due in part to the fact that Enron’s fall just really isn’t entertaining subject matter and a lot of people who suffered financially from the company’s follies still don’t sit around laughing about it. More, I think to blame, is the current economic climate. Reliving the start of it all – the first company we knew of who had acted so irresponsibly simply out of greed -- knowing that others in various industries continued to do the same over the years until we’re where we are in the middle of bailouts and a national debt we can’t even calculate with government spending out of control – well, it’s downright depressing.

And by the way, the play without all of its special effects, isn’t all that great either.

Broadway veteran Norbert Leo Butz stars as Jeffrey Skilling, the president who takes Enron from being America’s most innovative company to the energy-trading conglomerate which uses its influence to elect a US president and which has corporate giants like the Lehman Brothers (a couple of guys in one suit like conjoined twins) and Arthur Anderson (a ventriloquist and his dummy) begging to be part of its action.

Skilling collaborates with CFO Andy Fastow (Stephen Kunken) to bet on Enron’s future profits while hiding current debt. Fastow creates “raptor” models, four actors with dinosaur heads, representing the false companies created to secretly eat the company’s debt – until they are full and can eat no more.

Along the way to the top, Skilling has a rather vulgar office romance with rival Claudia Roe (Marin Mazzie) and keeps CEO Kenneth Lay (Gregory Itzin) in the dark so he can schmooze with the right people to get George W. Bush and his pro electricity deregulation policies into the White House. If that happens, Enron will have a chance at turning a profit if Skilling can just keep the stock price up. (Itzin is perfectly cast since fans of TV’s “24” know that the actor, who plays sleazy President Charles Logan, is more than capable of portraying a corrupt official pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on.)

That all-important stock price ticks across a screen in a video projection (Jon Driscoll, design) in the rear center of Anthony Ward’s really cool set featuring rod-like lights that form office cubicles lined by rows of filing cabinets along the sides.

The large cast sings and dances (Scott Ambler, choreography), a lot for a play, actually, and there even are some lStar Wars light sabers. Overall, Director Rupert Goold does a good job making this production big and fun to look at. The story just doesn’t grab you.

Prebbles sticks mostly to the facts of the case, and except for a few personal interjections about Skilling’s affair, his distracted thoughts about his young daughter and his pro-Charles Darwin/ atheist Richard Dawkins philosophy, we know very little about this unlikable man and even less about the other unlikable characters. The result is more than two and a half hours of reliving a pretty depressing period in America’s history with the nagging thought lurking that the financial world outside the theater today is even worse. It’s just not a fun way to spend an evening of entertainment, despite the really cool raptor heads.

The show runs at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th St., NYC. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available here. A show has been added at the end of the run Sunday evening at 7:30.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual activity
• Sexual dialogue
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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