In Timeline Theatre's sensational Chicago premier of Lucy Prebble's ‘Enron', a Shakespearean air of tragedy becomes all too apparent. The name Enron has become synonymous with the excesses of white collar greed and its collapse eleven years ago set in motion the debacle of Wall Street and its minions. It is all here in director Rachel Rockwell's exacting production which incorporates her expertise in staging musical theatre with her innate ability to make even the most despicable people relateable.
A hit in London and a flop on Broadway (more attributed to a negative New York Times review) playwright Lucy Prebble's script is biting, funny, sarcastic and incredibly foreshadowing. Three blind mice open the show, raptors eat debt and the person that brings the most tangible assets to the corporation is fired. The players work in a world of virtual nepotism and Jeffrey Skilling was the king. As told in this must see production, Enron was doomed from the moment it hired Skilling. Once he got his claws in this powerhouse of an energy company, he became the equal of a megalomaniac, taking his colleagues and more distressingly, thousands of employees down with him. He and his right hand man end up in prison, Kenneth Lay, who hires him, ends up dead and the survivor, ironically, is the one that got fired because she produces something tangible. That is irony to the highest.
Ms. Rockwell has also brought together one of the best ensemble casts seen in the last several years. Brent Tuomi totally embodies Jeffrey Skilling. He is no-nonsense and forceful yet at all times engaging. Terry Hamilton is also perfectly cast as Kenneth Lay, who rolls over for anything Skilling wants or demands, even abandoning his own intuition on what is happening with his company. Sean Fortunato's Andrew Fastow treads just the right balance of comedy and creepiness. It is this character that gives Skilling the idea of hiding Enron's growing debt and between the dialogue, delivery and staging, the audience members are spoon fed what actually caused the collapse. As Claudia Roe, the mover and shaker pre-Skilling, Amy Matheny gives one of the finest performances of her career. She truly captures Ms. Roe and knocks every scene she is in out of the park.
So does the entire ensemble,(especially Benjamin Sprunger and Christopher Allen) which functions like a tight musical theatre chorus. The choreography of the trading scenes is thrilling to watch as are the monitors which give us a video-game accounting of the stock market. Ms. Rockwell's work in the round at the Marriott Lincolnshire is put to great use here as the each scene change is visually engaging as well as the her unmatched ability to have her actors trust their surroundings. Kevin Depinet's set design is also some of his best work as is the masterful lighting by Jesse Klug and Greg Hofmann.
‘Enron' is an important piece of theatre and should not be missed. ‘Enron' as told by Prebble and Rockwell, holds a mirror up to our society and challenges us to engage in a conversation in how this could have happened, even when the writing was on the wall for all to see. Ah, but there is the rub, as there are none so blind as those that cannot see…..or don't want to.
Timeline Theatre Company's production of ‘Enron' runs through April 15, 2012. Timeline is located at 615 W. Wellington St. For tickets or more information please call (773) 281-8463 or visit timelinetheatre.com