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.
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>