In presenting a scandal that has made its way into MBA studies the world over, Enron launches with a disclaimer and an admission; it sells its story as if it were the truth. When a corporate party quickly swept onto stage I was apprehensive, anticipating a re-run of The Wolf Of (never-ending) Wall Street or a procession characters fulfilling the tired stereotypes of over-sexed, over-paid, self-serving psychopaths, every one of them corrupt to the core. Thankfully this is not what Enron offers.
Sustained high-energy delivery makes the whole cast effective in radiating the infectious economic optimism that enabled the company’s rise, and the plot illustrates the fragility of this optimism, as events in the political world eventually force Enron’s empty fortunes into the open. What seems to start out as a grounded project begins to isolate itself and float away from reality. Surreal representation makes what is otherwise an abstract shift powerfully obvious, and brings dinosaurs into play (always a winner). Having flesh-consuming pre-historic monsters on stage also goes some way to focusing attention on the values of the principals: Enron doesn’t give us a straightforwardly reprehensible set of criminals, something put across admirably by the cast.
A succinct script presents characters with relatable human values — desire for success, familial love — and we see these warped, twisted and destroyed as they press on in pursuit of ever more ambitious corporate success. That pursuit leads the chorus to sheer and ruthless inhumanity, as they will suffering on others for their own financial gain. While the delivery of the hyper-masculine element which audiences might typically expect as part of the picture of life on the boom-time trading floor, with all the bells and whistles of blunt obscenity and crass sexualisation, was left to the chorus, Skilling’s sustained conviction in his actions forces consideration of how far his animal values are really human values. It’s not just the dinosaurs that make this play dark, its the creeping forward of corruption and the response of each character to justice.
The cast’s initial enthusiastic thrust propels Enron towards a less than clear-cut conclusion; dynamic performances and a smattering of the expected in their characters add up to an outcome that is refreshingly obscure. In a field that has recently been crowded with big-budget films, the Fletcher Players’ Enron offers a fresh and entertaining perspective.