Eddie Yaroch in Enron at Moxie Theatre.
Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, Rolando
$20 - $27
Rich Kinder doesn’t appear in Laura Prebble’s satirical, three-ring circus based on the colossal collapse of Enron. From 1990 to 1996, he was President and Chief of Operations. According to Robert Bryce, author of Pipe Dreams, Kinder was a “tightwad…who made everybody accountable for every penny.” When Jeff Skilling replaced him, day-to-day activities turned to “unbridled aggression.”
Skilling was a strategic genius, says Bryce. But “when it came to understanding the importance of cash, he was dumber than a box of hammers.”
Skilling and finance wiz Andy Fastow shot Enron through the economic roof, then plunged the company with the “golden reputation” into bankruptcy. In 2001, 20,000 employees lost their jobs, medical benefits, and $1.2 billion in retirement funds (retirees lost $2 billion in pension funds). The employees received $4500 in severance play; execs, bonuses of $55 million.
Californians who remember the rolling blackouts of 2000-2001 can thank Enron for the “electricity crisis.” They would probably remember the company — and the market manipulations, pipeline shutdowns, and deregulated energy — even more if 9/11 had not seared the nation’s psyche.
Enron follows the rise and fall of a mega-corporation by following the rises and falls of:
Kenneth Lay, founder and chairman: hobnobbed with Bill Clinton and George W., and who said “I believe that the balance sheet was fundamentally strong. I believed that then, I believe that now.”
CEO Jeffrey Skilling: who had to pay defense attorneys a $23 million dollar retainer.
Andy Fastrow: who managed to conceal $30 billion in debt and who confessed at his trial, “I was extremely greedy. I lost my moral compass and did many things I regret.”
Claudia Roe: a composite of three women, one of whom, Rebecca Mark, said “I don’t feel remorse…equity is called equity for a reason.”
Enron at Moxie
To spice up a play with so many explanations and backstory, Prebble includes puppets, song and dance, three blind mice, and three red-eyed velociraptors, a la Jurassic Park. The latter represent Fastrow’s SPE’s (Special Project Entities), which enabled him to conceal almost $30 billion in debts. He called them “raptors.”
Enron’s a major story that demands to be told on a stage — in a live event — not as statistics, sound-bytes, or TV shots of the principals led up courthouse steps by batteries of lawyers. One could wish that Prebble were less eager to entertain with the side shows. They create an absurdist atmosphere, but pull focus from the monumental monstrosity of the scandal.
They’re one of the weaker aspects of Moxie Theatre’s in many ways fine production. Javier Velasco’s choreography is inventive, but the execution’s uneven, especially in the dance of the “lightsabers,” where several flash their separate ways. The songs reveal that about half the cast has little experience in musical theater.
Max Macke’s Skilling thinks he’s King Lear, and with conviction. He’s right and the world, closing in on him, is dead wrong. Macke traces a sweeping arc, from victory to defeat and raging denial. Unlike Lear, he gains no wisdom.
As Ken Lay and Claudia Roe, Mark C. Petrich and Lisel Gorel-Getz have little to work with, though they could put more variety into Lay’s soft and Roe’s hard-core attitudes.
In a terrific performance, Eddie Yaroch makes Andy Fastrow a mad scientist with frizzled hair on fire. Yaroch brims with “bubble mania,” the giddy, bulletproof high that blazed through “the world’s most innovative company.”
Sandra Ruiz, Savvy Scopelleti, James P. Darvas, and Jo Anne Glover make useful contributions. As do Jennifer Brawn Gitting's up-market costumes and Emily N. Smith’s raptors. Tim Nottage’s sleek, white, three-paneled set uses a turntable for quick changes of scene. By play’s end it resembles Fortune’s Wheel.