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Surreal, satiric ‘Enron’ opens at Moxie

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

“Do they always do things so well?” asked my flabbergasted companion during the interval (Sunday, Nov. 16) of Moxie Theatre’s meticulous, fabulously acted production of Lucy Prebble’s 2010 Broadway play, “Enron.” The answer is yes, of course they do, but the plays are not always so fascinating as this one.

Producing “Enron” is a daring move on Moxie’s part. But what is Moxie if not daring, especially when presenting plays written by women? New York Times’ critic Ben Brantley was not kind in his review, and the Broadway production closed in a week’s time, despite a cast of Broadway’s best. “Enron” had been such a hit in Prebble’s native Great Britain, that the Guardian newspaper, which called Brantley’s review “obtuse and hostile,” in part attributed its New York failure to conservative audiences that refuse to embrace anything outside the tradition of reality.

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Lucy Prebble takes an abstract jab at the true tale of corporate crime in “Enron.” (Photo by Daren Scott)

With its raptors, mice and music, “Enron” is decidedly outside the realm of reality. It is delicious satire as well. The theater lover may feel as if he or she has fallen into the honeypot, what with the simultaneous opening of another satire, “Honky,” at San Diego Rep. Moreover, as my friend attests, even the avid reader of the events that led to the collapse of Enron in 2001 did not have so clear a view of its causes. In other words, what “Enron” achieves is much more than a dry case study. It achieves clarity and entertains at the same time.

Enron owner Ken Lay (Mark C. Petrich) appoints a daring darling named Jeffrey Skilling (the amazing Max Macke) to the position of chief executive officer. In turn, Skilling appoints the clever, morally pliable Andy Fastow (Eddie Yaroch) as chief financial officer. Fastow conceives an ingenious way to disguise Enron’s losses by creating a fictitious corporation in which to hide them, even persuading Arthur Anderson (accounting firm) auditors to participate in the ruse. The whistle blower may have been Claudia Roe (perfectly cast Lisel Gorell-Getz), who had expected to become CEO.

Macke, who’s been seen in numerous roles at Carlsbad’s New Village Arts, exceeds all previous performances on San Diego stages as Skilling, and he does it without breaking a sweat. He is one of the founding members of the late, lamented Poor Players, where he played numerous Shakespeare roles. This is fitting, because “Enron” has been compared to “King Lear.”

Playing multiple roles are James P. Darvas, Don Evans, Jo Anne Glover, Alexander Guzman, Robert Kirk, Sandra Ruiz and Savvy Scoppeletti. Director Jennifer Eve Thorn, whose instincts are impeccable, cast her own daughter, Penelope, who is in first grade, to be Skillings’ daughter in Tim Nottage’s projections. This bit of nepotism is deeply appreciated because it is part and parcel of Moxie’s raison d’etre. Long may they wave.

In addition to Nottage’s scenic and projection design, the creative team includes Javier Velasco, choreographer; Jennifer Brawn Gittings, costumes; Matt Lescault-Wood, sound; Christopher Renda, lighting; Emily Smith, masks and crafts; and Angelica Ynfante, properties.

San Diegans may feel more involved than people from cities other than Houston, which is where the play is set and where Enron was headquartered: Enron had a highly visible presence here. For their criminal acts, the principals were sentenced to prison and the Arthur Anderson firm was forced out of business.

 Charlene Baldridge has been writing about the arts since 1979. Her book “San Diego, Jewel of the California Coast” (Northland Publishing) is currently available in bookstores. She can be reached at charb81@gmail.com.

“Enron” by Lucy Prebble

7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays – Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays | Through Dec. 7 | Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. (92115) | $27 general admission | moxietheatre.com or 858-598-7620

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