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The vote is in on ‘Enron’

Critics praise political play

The corporate crime that defined the end of the 20th century comes under dramatic scrutiny in Brit playwright Lucy Prebble’s “Enron,” which premiered July 23 at Britain’s Chichester Festival Theater to money reviews.

Heading a cast of 14, Samuel West plays disgraced Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling, with Tim Pigott-Smith as the other key player in the corruption scandal, Kenneth Lay. The production is directed by Rupert Goold, who made a bloody splash on Broadway early last year with his horror-tinged “Macbeth,” which starred Patrick Stewart and also debuted at Chichester.

“Enron” makes its London bow in a Royal Court Theater engagement Sept. 17-Nov. 7, and insiders are already talking about a West End transfer. Given the interest in Enron this side of the Pond, can New York plans be far behind?

Here’s what the London critics said:

  • Calling it “a zinger of a production” of a play that’s “a cross between an insightful analysis and a savage satire,” Variety‘s David Benedict said: “Prebble holds to the chronology and trajectories of real events and players but frees herself from the steady demands of fact-driven documentary better suited to journalism or TV investigation.”

  • The Times’ Dominic Maxwell applauded “Enron” as “political theater that never, ever feels impersonal,” praising the writer and director for explaining “previously bamboozling financial terms in constantly stimulating, ingenious ways.”

  • Predicting the play will be the “highbrow hit of the year,” the Evening Standard’s Fiona Mountford singled out set and costume designer Anthony Ward’s “spot-on design.” “With such dazzling components, it’s no wonder that Goold’s production buzzes and fizzes right from the start,” she wrote.

  • Backing most other critics’ remarks, the Guardian’s Michael Billington commended the play’s casting, West in particular: “In West’s assured hands, Skilling becomes a man who combines brilliance and stupidity and grows from a nerdy ordinariness into a tycoon through the idea that future income can be written down as earnings the moment a deal is signed.”

  • The Observer’s Susannah Clapp trumpeted the production as “one of the most incisive, most grown-up political dramas of the past 10 years.”

  • The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer touted the play’s universal appeal, calling it “hugely entertaining — and accessible even to dunderheads like me who wouldn’t know a financial instrument from an instrument of torture, though they currently seem to be much the same thing as so many of us ponder lost investments and precarious futures.”

Carson Vaughan

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