Theater Review - An Enemy of the People (NY)

Sibling Rivalry!!!!

At last: A real play with a world view! Henrik Ibsen's “An Enemy of the People” is a wonderfully human, political piece. Imagine! Set in Norway, it is just as relevant today s it was in 1882! Aided by a lively new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who is an English playwright and actress, and a splendid cast, (costumed by Catherine Zuber) Doug Hughes returns to his brilliance as director here.


Boyd Gaines, Boyd Gaines, Boyd Gaines! Is there nothing this actor cannot do?! In the musicals “Gypsy,”Contact,” and “She Loves Me,” for which he won Tony and OCC awards, he sang and danced with extraordinary deftness; for dramas, in “The Heidi Chronicles,” “Twelve Angry Men,” and “Journey's End,” he demonstrated an actor's range and perception that was without artifice.


Here, as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a passionate advocate for good and truth, Boyd Gaines is simply spellbinding. His progress is fascinating, as he goes from a happy, fulfilled man to one who is stripped of everything except his integrity. The first scenes take place in Thomas' rustic home, designed by John Lee Beatty, warmly lit with a golden hue by Ben Stanton. There we meet his brother, the very correct Peter, the Mayor of their town, played with careful attention to detail by Richard Thomas. Peter is greeted by Thomas's wife, Catherine, the lovely Kathleen McNenny, who is Boyd Gaines’ wife in real life. Peter and Thomas' friends, Hovstad, the editor of the newspaper, the competent John Procaccino, and a young journalist, Billing, an energetic James Waterston, are guests for dinner. Peter, a teetotaler, is concerned about one thing: that his image should stay intact. It seems that they have turned the town into a health spa, constructing large baths at great expense; although his brother initiated the idea, Peter wants full credit for the wealth and popularity that this has brought to the area.


A crisis occurs early on when Thomas receives a scientific report confirming his worst fears: the baths are contaminated and will continue to cause disease and even death. They must be completely rebuilt at a huge cost. Thomas feels that these facts should be printed immediately in the newspaper for all to see. At first, Hovstad and Billing agree; Aslaksen, the printer, who is also chairman of several people associations, warns Thomas that he should proceed with “restraint,” but the doctor cannot be dissuaded. Gerry Bamman, a long time character actor, achieves just the right tone in this role as the ordinary man.


As soon as Peter tells the people that the cost of fixing the baths will come from their pockets, the game changes. All desert Thomas, calling him “an enemy of the people.” And as he grows more and more frantic to save the town, he is persecuted. Peter, his brother, removes him from his job, leaving him penniless; his daughter, Petra, in a nice debut by Maite Alina, is fired from her teaching job; his two young boys have been fighting in school; his father-in-law, Morten Kil, the unique Michael Silberry, threatens to will all his money to an art center. His wife is fearful that they will have to return to poverty The only friend left is the sea Captain Horster (Randall Newsome), who has offered to take them to America.


In the hopeful end, with his family by his side, Thomas decides to stay and to battle on.


“An Enemy of the People” at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater on Broadway through November 15.


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