Moxie Theatre stages musical tragicomedy about corporate corruption

Enron, the huge energy company whose name became synonymous with corporate greed, fraud and corruption, has been the subject of articles, books and a movie since its infamous downfall in 2001. But the most unusual treatment is surely Lucy Prebble’s musical tragicomedy “Enron,” premiering at Moxie Theatre Nov. 13-Dec. 7.

Prebble is a young British writer who mixes dark humor with disturbing subjects. Her first play, “The Sugar Syndrome,” was a multi-award winner about the dangers of binge-eating and online chatrooms. Her second play, “Enron,” uses music, dance, masks and puppets to tell its tale of a gang of ruthless business execs whose doings rocked Wall Street and caused major power outages in California. A big hit in London, its Broadway production failed to wow New York critics, though it did earn a 2010 Tony nomination for Best Original Score. This is its West Coast premiere.

Moxie, now in its 10th season, consistently features the work of upcoming female playwrights whose work defies conventional stereotypes. Prebble certainly fits that profile, and Moxie co-founder and associate artistic director Jennifer Eve Thorne, who directed “The Sugar Syndrome” in 2008, is now at the helm of “Enron.”

“I happened to be in London in 2009 and got to see the West End production,” Thorne said. “I was blown away by how incredibly imaginative it was, and how impressive, especially for a second play. Young female playwrights just don’t write like this! Prebble found a tale to tell that explores how we are as humans and also explores contemporary American culture.”

“Enron,” Thorne said, is built like a Greek tragedy. “It’s really about the rise and fall of a brilliant man, Jeffrey Skilling, who dares to defy the gods and pays for it. His tragic flaw is hubris (pride); that’s what causes his downfall. I think money was not the point for him; it was being the one to create a whole new kind of empire.” The play calls for a cast of 37, but Thorne has 12 actors

playing multiple roles. “It’s a real marathon, with lots of physical sequences,” she said. “We’re using more rap and American music, so it feels like a musical. And the thing about Prebble is she makes all the characters sympathetic. We know they ripped everyone off, hurt so many people, but she doesn’t just treat them as villains. She examines how they got to that place, because we tend to worship successful CEOs; we think they’re geniuses, and we never really question at what cost.”

IF YOU GO: “Enron” has matinee and evening performances, Nov. 13-Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N. Tickets are $20-$40 at (858) 598-7620 or boxoffice@moxietheatre.com Join the director and cast for a post-show Q&A after the 2 p.m. Nov. 23 performance.

The Enron Story

■ Enron was an American energy, commodities and services company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001, Enron employed 20,000 staff and was one of the world’s major electricity, natural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies, with claimed revenues of nearly $111 billion during 2000. Fortune named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

■ At the end of 2001, it was revealed that its reported financial condition was sustained substantially by an institutionalized, systematic and creatively planned accounting fraud, known since as the Enron Scandal. Enron has since become a well-known example of willful corporate fraud and corruption. — Wikipedia

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