Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Enron (The SOB Review)

Enron (The SOB Review) - Broadhurst Theatre, New York, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

Too big to fail?

Too soon?

Even more quickly than corporate giant Enron collapsed nearly ten years ago, the Broadway show bearing its name has already posted its closing notice for this Sunday, May 9.

That came just hours after this year's slate of Tony nominations were announced. While British import Enron earned a respectable four nods, including almost improbably (but deservedly) in the Best Original Score category for its playwright Lucy Prebble and sound designer Adam Cork, the captivating thrill ride of a play with music failed to win any nods in the Best Play, Best Direction of a Play (Rupert Goold) and Best Lead Actor in a Play (Norbert Leo Butz) categories. So for a show about failure, it seemed to be living up to its name.

But hold on a minute.

I for one regret not writing enthusiastically about this highly stylized gem of a show earlier. In my humble estimation, this breathtaking work should have been nominated in each of the aforementioned categories. But I sensed that Tony nominators, if not New Yorkers in general, are weary of all things Wall Street, let alone allusions to 9/11, which is a shame because we cannot afford to have the complete collapse of either our economy or other towers ever occur again.

Perhaps we just don't like being lectured by the British, although I submit we can learn a lot from our mother country. In Enron, Prebble slyly portrays the slippery slope of self-deception onto which the company's principals placed themselves, beginning with the disingenuous mark to market accounting principles right through the creation of the deceptive LJM. Prebble presents plausible rationales, however deluded, under which Jeffrey Skilling (Butz), Andy Fastow (an exceptional Stephen Kunken) and ultimately Kenneth Lay (Gregory Itzin) were operating.

Butz, as you've never seen him before, is particularly brilliant in his first truly dramatic role on Broadway. Nailing the quirky behavior of an industry wonk, it's simply astonishing to watch his metamorphosis into a ruthless would-be titan. Despite what the nominators have said, I thought his to be the best performance I've yet to see him deliver on stage. Butz is a fierce force with whom to be reckoned.

As for reckoning, Wall Street would do well to remember the phrase coined by Spanish philosopher George Santayana's that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Lucy Prebble's Enron should be required viewing for everyone associated with Wall Street. If it actually were, the show would be running for years.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 05 May, 2010, Anonymous Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I agree completely with your review - I loved Enron and was so saddened to read yesterday about its closing.

At 05 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Megan, It seems as though people are polarized on this show, either loving it or hating it. I think it represents the exhilarating future of live theatre.

I should also add that half way through Jordan Ballard's amazing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," I realized it was the first time ever I was sitting through our national anthem.

At 05 May, 2010, Blogger Aaron Riccio said...

I'm really bummed out. I want to see this, and I'm not going to get a chance now. This vanished faster than Coram Boy!

At 05 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Aaron, If there's any way you can see it, I encourage you to do so. Still 7 performances left!

At 05 May, 2010, Blogger NineDaves said...

In the wake of Enron's demise, there's been a lot of conversation about the translation of British English to American English. Those against Enron seem to be characteristically upset about the way America is being portrayed by England. I have to admit, I see where they're coming from. No one likes to see their country ripped apart, especially by another country. But having seen the show in both London and here in New York, I have to say, if American audiences were offended by what they saw in New York, they have no idea how it played in London. In London, I felt like I was watching a comedy show. I was so incredibly taken aback by everyone's laughter around me, I couldn't help but feel defensive. Here in New York, Enron played like a serious drama. Sure, there were moments of laughter, but the show truly felt like a documentary. What an eye opening experience. I think because I had seen it before as a comedy, I was more open to taking in the drama. I absolutely loved it, and I'm sad to see it go. I wish American audiences would have opened their minds more, and checked their egos at the door. I urge people to see it before it closes. One of the best shows I've seen on stage in a long time. And Norbert Leo Butz is brilliant - simply brilliant! I'm glad you liked it too Steve. once again, you restore my faith in reviewers!

At 05 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

That's an amazing perspective - I'm so glad you weighed in on Enron and shared your experiences both in London and New York.

While I walked out a bit shellshocked, I loved it.

At 06 May, 2010, Blogger Linda said...

I rushed out to see this last night (no way was I going to miss Norbert Leo Butz in something) and I'm so glad I did. It wasn't my favorite play this year, but it was very creative and deserved a longer run. Americans can be too sensitive sometimes.

At 06 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Glad you saw it Linda. What did you think of Norbert Leo Butz? I was blown away by how much he lost himself in that role.

At 07 May, 2010, Blogger Linda said...

I agree with you about Norbert Leo Butz (of course). He was terrific as always, and he really transformed himself from the beginning of the play to the end.

At 18 May, 2010, Anonymous Tyler said...

It is a shame that Enron closed. For one, this play had alot of substance, and I cannot beleive it lasted only a week and a half.


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