Sometimes plays performed in repertory seem to be chosen randomly. But the two productions alternating now at 4615 Theatre Company are well matched.
“Enron,” named after the Houston-based energy company, is about the betrayal of public trust. “Betrayal” concerns marital infidelity.
But the connection did not seem obvious at first to Jordan Friend, artistic director of 4615, and Stevie Zimmerman, its newly-minted resident director.
“It was understood that Jordan was always going to direct ‘Enron,’” said Zimmerman, who met him in a theater program. “‘Betrayal’ is a play I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, but at first neither of us could see how it fit. We looked at many other plays and eventually realized that ‘Betrayal’ was actually a really good complement in many ways.”
The thematic link, she continued, has to do with lies and scandal, one on an epic corporate scale and the other personal and private.
The potentially good working relationship between Friend and Zimmerman was more obvious.
“Jordan had a young company that was really at the beginning of a process of becoming more established and although I don’t have a huge resume, I have been (directing for a) while and I think he felt I would bring a different sensibility to the work…,” Zimmerman said. “I was drawn to the energy and determination a young company has, and the freedom to take risks, and the challenge of making great experiences on smaller stages and with smaller budgets.”
“Enron” encapsulates 14 years of the company tracing its meteoric rise and catastrophic fall, said Friend, and it does not let anyone off the hook.
Written by British playwright Lucy Prebble, “Enron” is the story about the company responsible for one of the largest corporate scandals, mixed with absurd humor.
“As the company breaks laws and cooks the books, the play’s reality starts to get sketchier,” Friend said, pointing to the show’s profanity, illusion, puppetry, dinosaurs and musical numbers.
“Betrayal” is by British playwright Harold Pinter, and is directed by Zimmerman. As much as the play appealed to her, it is not easy to stage.
“It’s the timing,” said Zimmerman. “Pinter is famous for his pauses. Working on the text you become aware of how many times nothing is being said – but so much is being unsaid. You have to fill those silences and pauses and believe in them as part of the dialogue.”
For the actors, she added, the pauses can be very uncomfortable, especially since much of the play is very physically static.
“There is always a fear that the audience will get bored, or restless, especially nowadays when people are used to constant and fast moving information and entertainment (Blame ‘Sesame Street’!). But I believe that audiences will find themselves compelled to wait and really listen – and that is where the satisfaction lies,” she said.
“During the process, the most satisfying thing is working with truly exceptional actors and digging deeper and deeper into what is seemingly a very simple script. There’s nothing simple about it, and at every turn, on every page, in almost every sentence, there are questions to be asked and multiple possible answers.
“The play challenges our ideas of fidelity and friendship but is really entertaining, I hope,” Zimmerman added.
Caroline Dubberly plays Emma in “Betrayal.” Matt Dewberry is Jerry, and Jared Graham is Robert.
This is the third full year for the Bethesda-based theater, which did a residency at The Highwood Theatre but now has its own long-term performing space.
Performances run Aug, 16-Sept. 8 at The Dance Loft on on 14 4618 14 Street, NW, Washington, D.C. www.4615theatre.com.
“Enron” runs from Aug. 9-Sept. 1 and “Betrayal” Aug. 16-Sept.8.