ENRON

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    May 1, 2010
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    At the conclusion of this play, Norbert Leo Butts addresses the audience. In back of him is an enormous graph that tracks the stock market. He expounds on the ups and downs, on greed and ambition, and concludes with the fact that the very, very high point on the graph is 2008 and the very very low point waaaaaaaay down on the left is 1876. I turned to my friend and said, “That should have been the beginning of the play.”

    This is a nearly impossible play to watch. It is like watching a car wreck with the additional burden of not understanding what cars are. And I’m not the only one. Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short says that the people who were creating the collapse don’t understand it. We are all walking around on a slippery slope under which is only air.

    And out of this Lucy Prebble has tried to create a story. Bless her for trying. Only a Brit would take something like that on – and I mean this as a compliment. It makes me wonder if this show was better in London. Years ago I saw Stuff Happens, the David Hare play about the Bush administration, in London where I thought it worked. Two years later I saw it at the Public where I thought it didn’t work at all. Ditto Democracy, the play about German Chancellor Willy Brandt, by Michael Frayne. Even though we share a common language we don’t share a common connection to the theatre. Some plays don’t’ make it across the pond.

    The dizzying economic death spiral is laid out in warp and woof dialogue that nearly collapses the theatre by sucking out the air. Blind mice tap across the stage. Raptors gobble up debt. Ken Lay watches over his creation from a high vantage point that disappears into cloud formations, a little like Caesar watching the Christians lose one to the lions. And then comes a shattering moment when the towers go down and the ash falls out of the sky. You can hear the audience hit the glass wall. There we are running hard to keep up only to be lured into a booby trap.

    This is a play that combines American spectacle with truths most of us don’t comprehend. As told by someone who wasn’t here at the time, it is composed of television like sound bites that entertain but don’t connect. It is as if an American wrote a play about the death of Princess Diana, cast it with excellent actors ( as these folks indeed are) and loaded it with a set that does everything but dance – it wouldn’t change the ending would it?

     

    "Flashy but labored economics lesson."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "The razzle dazzle is entertaining for a while."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "A whip-smart, edge-of-your-seat ride that'd rival anything at Six Flags."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "It's all in the way you tell it, and the telling at the Broadhurst Theatre is riveting."
    Roma Torre for NY1

    "Stunning enough to provide steady wonder, involvement and delight."
    John Simon for Bloomberg

    "Sound and fury, signifying not a whole heck of a lot."
    Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

    "A flashy yet lumbering docudrama."
    Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press

    "Much like the ill-fated company it depicts, too much of "Enron" is smoke and mirrors."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "It cost $5 million. So big deal. The theatrical effects alone ... are worth every drachma."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - Associated Press - Hollywood Reporter - Variety