Archive for September, 2011

ENRON
The Generic Theater
Theatre Reviewer: Richard Keel
September 13, 2011

Who looks at the collapse of a giant energy commodities company undone by the fraudulent use of limited liability special purpose companies and thinks “Hey, that’d make a fun show!” Not me. My head hurt just writing that first sentence. Thankfully, Lucy Prebble had a lot more vision when she wrote ENRON.

So did the folks at the Generic Theater when they chose it to open their season.

This marks the Southern US premiere of ENRON, but it’s not mint-juleps and straw hats southern. It’s a multi-media, pop-culture infused, light-saber wielding, song-and-dance extravaganza that is still somehow overshadowed by memorable characters excellently preformed….

Kent Collins anchors the cast as Jeffery Skilling. He brings a real vulnerability and sincerity as the chief architect of what, at the time, was the greatest financial collapse in history. The play rests on his shoulders and he never falters. Jeannette Rainey brings brains, balls and a very sexy motorcycle ride on stage as Claudia Roe, the sole women in a frat boy business culture. Chris Kypros steals scenes as Ken Lay, the grandfatherly, aw-shucks man behind the men at Enron. The moment when Lay drops his paternal facade and shows the iron backbone that built the empire is a juicy one for an actor and Kypros takes a nice, big bite.

Jeff Skilling (Ethan Marten) with Raptor One (Ashley Vetere), Raptor Two (Silvia Baldassini), and, Raptor Three (Matt Cole). Photo by Paul Costen.

Finally, standing out amid standouts, Ethan Marten has a tightly wrapped intensity as Andrew Fastow. Part suck-up, part outsider, part big-shot and part alchemist, the character of Fastow requires an actor with a lot of parts and Marten has them all. That sounds weird but you know what I mean….

Threatening to steal the show is $100,000 worth of visual equipment that sets the stage. Every spare inch of theater space is employed to create the virtual world of what became a virtual company with virtual profits. The wrap-around balcony is a megaplex for projected video to convey the ever-changing decade that ushered in the technical revolution. A drop-down screen in the balcony gives broadcast background without slowing down the play. In particularly clever casting, local anchors Barbara Ciara and Cathy Lewis play newscasters, making the exposition much more natural. Panels on stage turn to provide backdrop for a Jurassic jungle. The sound engineering adds to the effects, particularly during a reenactment of the chaotic 2000 election.

Generic Labs, comprised of Jonathan Bremner and Matt Friedman again, tackle the daunting technical challenge. I’ve not seen anything of this scope locally. It has the potential to overtake the show, like a powerpoint run amok. That it integrates rather than distracts is a testament to Friedman’s vision and firm hand on the helm….

Full Review Here>

Ken Lay (Christopher Kypros), Jeff Skilling (Kent Collins), and Jeffery Fastow (Ethan Marten). Photo by Paul Costen

By Mal Vincent
The Virginian-Pilot
© September 15, 2011
Follow the money and you’ll get at the truth.

But wait a minute! Following the money is not that easy in a society that has been turned upside down by one of the biggest recessions of modern times. Add to the mix that it was all inspired by greed, and you look for a villain. Add to the confusion when you realize the villains are all around us. One target is Enron, the company whose double-dealing actually resulted in jail sentences.

“Delightfully Corrupt,” and “A Rolicking Evening of Theater!”
- Mal Vincent, Virginian-Pilot

Reserve Seats Now! 757-441-2160 for Tonight, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

You’d hardly think it a subject for a rollicking evening of theater. Think again. Check out the Generic Theater’s performances through Oct. 2 of “Enron.” The London hit and Broadway flop has been turned into an imaginative outing that is as double-dealing as its subject.

Here they are, future jailbirds who hide their losses (at least until they get caught). Here is a young conniver who plays the dirty game adeptly. Here is a powerful, cold woman who makes many of her deals stretched on top of office desks. Here is a cast deftly mixed and rehearsed to perfection by director Matthew Friedman.

READ FULL REVIEW HERE

Technically, the show is by far the most intricate, and eye-boggling, in the long history of the Generic Theater. Images flash on all sides above the playing area that serves as a stage. Local newscasters, such as Cathy Lewis and Barbara Ciara, mouth breathless mock news reports that show how the stock is turning. They add credibility to an incredible situation.

Kent Collins is both ruthless and boyish as Jeff Skilling, the wonder boy leader of Enron who, seemingly, turns a profit no matter the tactics. Ethan Marten is eerily conniving and sniveling as Andy Fastow, the rise-at-all-costs climber who, as pictured here, masterminds the hiding of losses. Marten is so convincing that you half expect him to take the stage twirling a dark moustache. Chris Kypros, known for his piano accompaniment of silent movies at the Naro Expanded Cinema, is both boisterous and naive as Ken Lay, the elder head of the company who seems oblivious to what his young whippersnappers are doing.

Deadliest of all is Jeannette Rainey as Claudia Roe, a dragon lady of high finance who pushes around the big boys and eventually falls victim to her own game. You can hardly believe she’s the same nice person who usually introduces plays at the Generic.

They are backed by a cast of almost 20 – both live and on film. For the intimate Generic playing area, that’s quite a horde.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ambition Opens 2011-12 Season at the Generic

Enron Exposes the Criminal Roots of Irrational Exuberance

Norfolk’s Generic Theater opened its 31st season Friday night (Sept. 9) with the Virginia debut of British playwright Lucy Prebble’s Enron, a seriously ambitious project…. Let’s hope, at least, they get an excess of love and appreciation from packed houses for bringing this important show to the stage way-down-under in Chrysler Hall….

Do you remember Enron? I barely did, after the mind-numbing procession of corporate malfeasance that followed, continuing, of course, to this day. Yet remembering the Enron scandal is instructional, for with hindsight it becomes apparent that the energy company’s collapse was a canary in a coal mine. It signaled the presence of the subtle poison of self-undoing which unregulated free market capitalism had injected into our social contract, especially when practiced by certain highly torqued alpha males whose natural habitat is Texas.

Not that Texas has a monopoly on toxic alpha males in this land of the free. Wherever brains and massive ego outweigh common sense and old-fashioned decency, you will find the Jeff Skillings and Andy Fastows of this world busy dreaming, scheming, and making deals—smart guys who vastly underestimate their capacity for human error or, in obsolete parlance, Biblical sin….

Ken Lay, the founder of Enron, likes to see himself as the benevolent patriarch of the corporation. As played by Chris Kypros, he comes across as an old-fashioned Chamber-of-Commerce type who believes business is America’s religion. He easily becomes enabler to the get-rich-quick schemes proposed by Skilling, played by Kent Collins, who himself is brought to a higher level of corruption by a numbers man, Andy Fastow, played by Ethan Marten.

Marten’s Fastow—bordering on psychopathic—is a work of art, a stand-out performance. His accounting bargain with the devil, symbolized by three dancing reptilian figures he plays with like a lion trainer, is the show’s most pointed, poison-tipped dagger. Collin’s Skilling, on the other hand, is much less blind to the danger he’s in and so more vulnerable. His undoing is his ego-mania, his arrogant conviction that he’s smarter than anyone else. Collins is convincing as the confident Skilling but less emotionally certain of the ruined Skilling, who was ultimately convicted of nineteen counts of conspiracy and fraud and sentenced to 24 years in prison, a mighty fall for a proud elitist. Fastow, by cooperating with prosecutors, got off with two counts and six years, though he was the brains behind the creative accounting that led to a debt of $30 billion and, in 2002, bankruptcy of a company once considered the leading light of American business genius….

Enron continues at the Generic Thursday through Sunday until Oct. 2. All performances are at 8 except for Sunday matinees at 2:30. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for seniors, military, and students, and $10 for groups of ten or more. For information and reservations, call 757-441-2160 or, on the web, go to Generic Theater

READ FULL REVIEW HERE!

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