“I’m not sure I ever really understood what the whole Enron scandal was about until I saw this.”
We overheard this audience member's remark at last night's 5-star performance and couldn't help but think 'same here.'
The 90s were a heady and hectic time; climbing career ladders by day and supervising homework projects by night left little time to get up to speed on exactly what it was these guys pulled. Something about reported earnings they hadn’t exactly um…earned – a Senate investigation and sentences handed out – Arthur Andersen crashing and burning - then way-lotsa more on-the-job accountability forever after for millions of us who never did anything remotely untoward.
Timeline’s mission – to “present stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues” never misses - but Enron struck a special chord. Why? We were there too, in all our “dressed for success” glory. We read those CNN crawls and danced to those tunes, and when it was all over, we got our collective wrists slapped.
From the moment the attorney(Mark D. Hines) struts onstage in double-breasted houndstooth until Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling (Bret Tuomi) exits stage left in his prison-orange jumpsuit, we’re in for close to 2 ½ hours of fabulous ensemble acting, attention-riveting visuals – set changes are cast-executed, in costume and character – and a script that is the true star of the show.
Some very inventive, recurring sight gags were among the highlights of this production – the three blind mice who doubled as raptors in rep ties, voraciously feeding on the billions in debt Enron off-loaded to its shadow corporation – justice, blindfolded and swinging a sword – the Arthur Andersen accountant who let his ventriloquist’s dummy do the talking – and we loved the Lehman Brothers. Characterized as conjoined twins who marched in lockstep and spoke in unison, they sensed something wasn’t kosher here but opted for a piece of the action over propriety. The trading pit was both amusing and authentic with its testosterone-fueled physicality and trash talk.
Almost the entire cast made its Timeline debut with this piece, and we’d love to see them back. Sean Fortunato was power-hungry, dweebish perfection as Andrew Fastow, the CFO who hatched the shadow corporation scheme. Bret Tuomi was brash yet sad as Jeffrey Skilling, thoroughly convincing us this man continues to believe he didn’t do anything wrong. Well, illegal. Amy Metheny’s Claudia Roe, a fictionalized version of ousted Rebecca Mark, CEO of Enron International, looked dynamite in short skirts and loooong jackets, winning our hearts as the (kinda sorta) moral compass of the executive suite.
Company regular Terry Hamilton was the only familiar face among the leads – his Ken Lay was appropriately smarmy, shrewd and purposefully ignorant of the nefarious goings-on.
Playing white-collar scumbags who bilked 20,000 employees out of their wages and orchestrated rolling power brown-outs in de-regulated California that resulted in statewide chaos and actual loss of life, these actors so stepped into their roles I felt the audience subconsciously held back a little on the applause they so richly deserved for their performances.
Enron earned Brit Lucy Prebble the Theatrical Management Association’s award for Best New Play of 2009. Thought-provoking, funny and foul-mouthed – if non-stop expletives and a simulated boardroom hookup would offend, you’d best sit this one out – the script delivered some amazing truths and takeaways. “All money is debt.” And this gem from
the Skilling character, so artfully delivered:
“Imagine if the belief a plane could fly was all that was keeping it in the air.”
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- TimeLine's Enron study guide
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