The rise of N-RON!

Woefully late on this review, and I suppose I’m pushing it if I try to use my post-Undercurrents fugue as an excuse.  I AM in rehearsal for a show these days, so that sort of works a little bit.  But for the most part I’m just lazy, so sorry about that, people whose show I’m about to review sorta later than I’d like!  It’s nothing personal, you were all just swell…a fact which I will now expand into a couple of paragraphs for everyone else’s reading pleasure.

It was…goddamn, last Thursday? What’s WRONG with me??  Shit.   But anyway, it was about a million years ago that I checked in at the National Arts Centre for the latest in their English Theatre studio series, ENRON by Lucy Prebble.  And while you might be forgiven for thinking this was the tale of mighty outer-space killer robot N-RON, the truth is even more terrifying, as the NAC gang have assembled their resident acting company to tackle the all-too-true story of corporate greed turned up to eleven.  We all know SOME of the story, but Prebble dives deep and satirically into the belly of the beast that was Enron, from its early days as an only sort-of evil oil conglomerate to its super-villain-esque ending as the bane of the US economy and the literal destroyer of lives.  And it was a helluva ride along the way.

Foolish Humans, you cannot destroy N-RON so easily...!
Foolish Humans, you cannot destroy N-RON so easily…!

Joel Tremblay plays Ken Lay, the infamous CEO of Enron as an easygoing country boy, looking for new blood to run his powerhouse company.  He passes over longtime aide Claudia Roe (Petrina Bromley) in favour of up and coming trading genius Jeffrey Skilling (Dmitry Chepovetsky), who has some…let’s call them ‘innovative’ ideas to take the company in new directions.  Skilling spearheads the idea of trading energy on the stock market, which skyrockets Enron’s already profitable stock to unheard of heights.  But while the rise is meteoric, it also has some tricky twists…such as the fact that, somehow, despite being technically worth billions, Enron doesn’t actually HAVE any cash…really, you’ll never see a better example of the utter illusory nature of financial markets than in this show.  To escape the jam, Skilling enlists slick Andy Fastow (Eric Davis) to create even more illusions, phantom companies called ‘raptors’ upon which to unload Enron’s secretly burgeoning debt.  It’s a skyscraper of cards rolling out of control down a steep hill on a skateboard, and the crash is both inevitable and horrific.  There’s lots to learn in this show, both about the downright insane methods Enron used to fix the markets in their favour, and the utter delusion of the masters behind the scenes.

Dmitri Chepovetsky anchors this show with a consistently strong and fierce performance as Jeffrey Skilling, never wavering in his utter belief in both the almighty dollar and his own staggering intellect…watching him fall, and still be completely unable to apologize to those whose lives he destroyed, is a thing of twisted beauty.  Petrina Bromley is a strong opposite number to him as the old-school Claudia Roe, and they clash wonderfully multiple times.  The rest of the ensemble (Christine Brubaker, David Coomber, Leah Doz, Sheldon Elter, Quancetia Hamilton, and Eliza-Jane Scott) fill out a variety of roles in this pretty epic production, from armies of lawyers and traders, to the Lehman Brothers, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a trio of hungry dinosaurs, because that’s just how damn cool this production IS.

This is straight up one of the best looking shows around…the design team of Brian Smith (set and costume), Michael Walton (Lighting), Matthew Skopyk (sound), all under the corral of director Ron Jenkins, deserve major kudos or what’s been accomplished here.  Choreographer Laura Krewski gets credit too, for several sweet dance numbers and onstage traffic direction that must have been a nightmare to coordinate.  The smart and funny script, detailing the ins and outs of a byzantine financial tragedy with massive repercussions still felt today, is as good as you’ve heard.  I hope y’all get a chance to check it out, I had a blast…it plays until March 1st at the NAC studio.  Don’t make N-Ron angry!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

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