Funny money gets devalued in 'Enron'

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REVIEW

For "Enron" to be any more timely, the financial satire with music would have to be happening in the offices of Goldman Sachs' lawyers. If Rupert Goold's fanciful multimedia staging of Lucy Prebble's London hit were any livelier, the actors wearing voracious debt-eating raptors masks on their heads would be dashing up the theater aisles gobbling credit-card receipts from our wallets.

In other words, Broadway's latest London import is an ingenious and well-informed extravaganza about the '90s rise and scandalous 2001 collapse of the mega-energy company in Texas.

PHOTOS: Scenes from "Enron"

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So why is the spectacle so unaffecting - so clever and yet so shallow? Perhaps we have money-scandal fatigue. Maybe it is too soon, or not soon enough, for a high-style, high-tech vaudeville explication of the catastrophes behind the corporate facades.

Despite the serious research and the playful imagination, the splendid new American cast and the irresistible craven puppets, the play tells us what it is in the first half-hour and then tells us again for another two hours. Board members are blind mice in suits. A video of Bill Clinton reminds us that he "didn't have sex with that woman." Voting in Florida was too close to call. Bush deregulated electricity and California is still paying for it.

If anyone could have made us care about Jeffrey Skilling, the big brains behind the concept of virtual profits, it would be the gifted and appealing Norbert Leo Butz. And, for a while, he does. He begins as a pudgy, nervous outsider with "new accounting" ideas, then transforms into a cocky little master of the universe. Marin Mazzie makes a seductive representative of the old-school oil business, one of the few fictional characters among the play's leads, with Gregory Itzin as a folksy, clueless Kenneth Lay. Stephen Kunken is good and slimy as Andrew Fastow, the lap dog in the basement who creates a shadow corporation to eat debt.

The large cast serves as a tribal chorus of traders, sings hymns to aluminum and gold, and fences in a light-saber dance to California's meltdown. Anthony Ward's sets include a huge animated video game of a market board; his costumes are especially beloved for those mice and raptors. Alas, British playwright Caryl Churchill said so much more with less on the subject in her satire with music, "Serious Money," which starred Alec Baldwin in 1988. Devaluation happens on Broadway, too.

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WHAT "Enron"

WHERE Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St., Manhattan

INFO $66.50-$121.50; 212-239-6200; telecharge.com

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BOTTOM LINE Clever, but old news

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