By Karen Posada
‘An Enemy of the People’ is a very interesting political thriller, which although it was written in 1882 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen it easily resonates with today’s politics and society. The Manhattan Theatre Club’s production gave it a new spin thanks to Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new version. The first part of the act was the most entertaining to me, as it developed what the story is about and who the characters are in a very simple but yet captivating way. The second part really deals with the core of the play giving it more dynamism and a lot more for the public to think about. This Broadway show wisely explores corruption in politics, morals, family vs. community and even democracy.
This two hour Broadway show, which had its opening night on September 27, 2012, takes place in a coastal town in southern Norway. Where Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Boyd Gaines) discovers that the biggest income to his community, which is very appealing to tourists is toxic. As an important member of his town he soon tell his brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann (Richard Thomas) who believes the news will make the town go into chaos. The difference of opinion creates a political confrontation of will and personal ethics.
A rotating stage was used for this play; most of the scenes take place inside the house of Dr. Thomas Stockmann. As the stage rotates we get to go from the Dr.’s living room/dining room to his study, a newspaper printing press and a town hall. Director Doug Hughes Tony Award winner knows how to use the Samuel J. Friedman Theater properly as he even uses the main corridor for one of the scenes, where the public gets to be an interactive part of the play.
The main two actors: Gaines and Thomas are terrific! Gaines has the soul of a fighter and the character of a mad scientist that’s willing to put his job on the line for his ethics and beliefs. Thomas is your typical politician who isn’t afraid to step over anyone’s head as long as he gets his way. Maïté Alina (Petra Stockmann) is given the opportunity to be a strong woman in a world where very few are considered academics but certainly not equals; she gives a solid performance as a daughter and a feminist. Kathleen McNenny (Catherine Stockmann) gives the most balance to the play, since she’s torn between what’s right for her family or her community and she makes the transition quite smoothly.
John Procaccino (Hovstad) plays a very interesting role as a liberal whose ideas are shaky, he represents someone many people might know in their own lives and this is what makes him interesting. Gerry Bamman (Aslaksen) surprisingly brings a lot of comedy to the play, while at the same time representing the majority of the people.
Honestly I enjoyed the first act the most since I was easily submerged into the story and although there’s a moment where you don’t quite know what’s going on, when the act reaches its highest point it’s hard to let go. The second part has a lot more humor in it, while it is also darker and more brutal. The story is able to play with your mind and make you question your own ethics as it raises a lot of questions about what’s best for a community and the principles of democracy. It shows how easily the masses are swayed, especially under the wrong leadership. The struggle between the individual and the multitude are appealing as it is relevant in any period of human history.
I can’t say I agree with some of what is stated by the characters in the play, but I do appreciate the fact that it makes you think, because it dares to push the envelop by speaking directly to the public. It makes you look at the way our society is now, even if this is a play from 1882 written in a Scandinavian nation it fits in perfectly in any political setting in the world.
MTC’s ‘An Enemy of the People‘ is playing in The Samuel J. Fiedman Theater for more info go to: