Try this just for fun: Ask the next 10 people you meet to explain the 2001 Enron scandal to you. Odds are, most of them will say they've heard of Enron and they knew there was some scandal involving it, but that'd be it. Now try to imagine a work of theater based on the Enron scandal. That's what British playwright Lucy Prebble did, and her resultant Enron played to audiences on both London's West End and (for a month) on Broadway.
Now Prebble's story of greed, villainy and intercorporate backstabbing is making its West Coast debut, at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. Jennifer Eve Thorn directs an energetic cast of 12 in a swiftly paced production that takes what is sheer documentary material and pumps it up with multimedia enhancements and characters costumed as crimson-eyed raptors and man-sized mice. The sight gags and hip-hop music and the fanciful moments where "Enron employees" break into dance provide theatricality, though it's all rather gimmicky, like a series of Second City sketches strung together.
Amid all the stage pranks are some stalwart satiric performances. Max Macke glories in the pivotal role of Enron kingpin Jeffrey Skilling, an arrogant, mercenary figure whose soul seems beyond redemption. Yet his unquestioned love for his daughter (shown asking her father innocent questions from behind a projection screen) humanizes Skilling to the point that we almost feel sorry for him. The other sorta sympathetic character in Enron is the misfit Andy Fastow (Eddie Yaroch), whose brainstorm to create a "shadow company" to hide the corporate giant's debts seduces Skilling and precipitates Enron's downfall. Mark C. Petrich completes this threesome as the smug, oblivious Ken Lay (famously dubbed "Kenny Boy" by Dubya).
Strictly speaking, the Enron scandal was about numbers, the kind that follow dollar signs. But it's important to remember that it was really about people—those swallowed up by greed and those who, because of the greedy, lost their life savings. Prebble's Enron carries that message with conviction and has some fun along the way. Nothing wrong with that. Laughter eases some of the pain.
If only Kenny Boy hadn't croaked before serving even one day of his prison sentence.
Enron runs through Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $25-$27. moxietheatre.com
The 1940s Radio Hour: A little New York radio station produces a lively musical broadcast for the troops during World War II. Opens Nov. 21 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
A Midsummer Night's Dream: UCSD's Theatre & Dance department will perform Shakespeare's classic comedy where it should be performed: outside in a wooded area adjacent to the Geisel Library on campus. Runs Nov. 19 through 23. theatre.ucsd.edu
night, Mother: A staged reading of a play about a divorced, epileptic woman whose life is a mess. She wants to end it. Will she? Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs Nov. 20 through 22 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
The Nutcracker: This is not the ballet! This is an updated musical-theater adaptation of the holiday classic, about a little girl who goes on a fantastical adventure as she grieves for her deceased brother. Opens in previews on Nov. 21 at New Village Arts in Solana Beach. newvillagearts.org
Tru: This one-man play finds Truman Capote alone in his apartment with pills, booze and desserts. Opens Nov. 20 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
The Burial at Thebes: In ancient Greece, Antigone pays the price for defying her uncle and burying her brother, who's viewed as a traitor. Through Nov. 22 at UCSD's Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Calendar Girls: A stage adaptation of the 2003 film about a group of mature women who pose nude for a calendar to raise money for the fight against leukemia. Through Nov. 23 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. Search for "Sullivan Players" on Facebook.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre: A young prince sails the seas, falls in love and marries, loses his wife and then his daughter and eventually lives happily ever after. Through Nov. 23 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Twelfth Night: After a shipwreck, much love is professed and identities are mistaken on the Adriatic coast. Through Nov. 23 at MiraCosta College in Oceanside. miracosta.edu/theatre
Spamalot: Fred is not yet dead in the musical version of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Extended through Dec. 7 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Absurd Person Singular: The marriages of three couples are dissected in a play that's set at parties on successive Christmas Eves. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Enron: A highly stylized, satirical chronicle of the scandal-driven downfall of the Houston energy company and its arrogant CEO, Jeffrey Skilling. Through Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Honky: Race relations are examined in this play about a shoe company that sees sales to white kids soar after a black youth is murdered for his shoes. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A new musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's story of the not-super-attractive bell ringer Quasimodo and the enchanting gypsy Esmeralda. Through Dec. 7 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Wicked: The Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good Witch. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
I Do, I Do, I Do: A woman is in a heap o' trouble after promising to marry three different dudes. Through Dec. 14 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A total jerk is surprised when his tiny, wretched heart grows by a factor of three. Through Dec. 27 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net