Review: An Enemy of the People (Stage Left Theatre)

  
  

Stage Left’s ‘Enemy’ requires suspension of cynicism

  
  

William Watt as Doctor Stockmann, An Enemy of the People. Photo credit: Johnny Knight

  
Stage Left Theatre presents
   
An Enemy of the People
   
Original play by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by
Arthur Miller
Directed by
Jason Fleece
at
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
through April 3  |  tickets: $22-$28  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

‘Before many can know it, one must know it.’ Corporate, government, media, medical: which “expert” is most credible to announce an environmental threat? Stage Left Theatre presents An Enemy of the People. The play was originally written in 1882 by Henrik Ibsen and adapted in the 1950’s by Arthur Miller. It’s1959 in Norway. The Institution has capitalized on a vacation hot springs spot. The entire town benefits from tourists seeking a healthy retreat. The doctor at The Institution finds killer bacteria in the water. Delighted over the important scientific discovery, the doctor tells the mayor the deadly risk to the community. The mayor doesn’t have an emergency response. In fact, the mayor believes the real harmful substance isn’t in the water…. it’s his brother. The mayor and the doctor also happen to have a toxic brother relationship. The doctor wants to alert the public to the health risk. The mayor wants to Scene from 'An Enemy of the People'. Stage Left Theatre. photo by Johnny Knightisolate the problem… his brother. It takes a village to avoid a scandal. The town takes sides against a brother. An Enemy of the People is a nostalgic look back at days gone be. It’s the simpler times when elected officials, local newspapers, and spring waters were unquestionably pure.

The premise of the play requires suspension of cynicism. In 2011, Americans drink water out of bottles, scan the Internet for credible media sources, and scrutinize every politician comment for bullshit. The very plot of the play requires a childlike wonder that is difficult to muster. Without it, connecting with the characters is difficult. This particular production never quite successfully bridges the generational gap. Some directorial choices by Jason Fleece makes the flow clunky and artificial. The large cast has some individual standout moments but overall seems disjointed in attempts to come together. In the lead, William J. Watt (Doctor) plays it over-the-top and in-the-face, whining his opinion. Watt seems less like a man of science and more like a spoiled child. In a complete departure from the play’s intention, a sympathy arises for his persecutors.The other brother, Cory Krebsbach (Mayor) plays it much more subtle. Krebsbach is all-politician smooth-talking the town into rallying against medical expertise and their own health. Bringing comic relief, James Eldrenkamp (Aslaksen) is funny ‘in moderation’, Kurt Conroyd (drunk) makes a hysterical spectacle and Sandy Elias (Morton) is a curmudgeon cartoon.

The set, designed by Alan Donahue, has an Ikea-does-cabin-look. It’s all wooden with a strong modern ambiance. Apparently, the middle of the set provides a shadowboxing effect for a mob scene. The audience semi-circles the stage. I was sitting stage right and didn’t observe the dramatic effect.

Back in the day, An Enemy of the People must have raged a war on authority. Today, Americans are continually in conflict with leaders. The evolution of thought to modern times makes the content less profound. This production is somewhere between an enemy and a friend of the people.

  
  
Rating: ★★
   
  

An Enemy of the People continues at Theater Wit through April 3rd, with performances Thursdays, Friday, and Saturdays at 7:30pm; Sundays at 2:30pm.  Running time is two hours and thirty minutes with a ten minute intermission. Tickets are $22-$28, and can be purchased online or by calling 773-975-8150.

  
  

Artists

William Watt - An Enemy of the People - Stage Left TheatreCast:

Dr. Stockmann: William Watt
Peter Stockmann: Cory Krebsbach*
Mrs. Stockmann: Anita Chandwaney*
Petra:
Melanie Derleth*
Morten Kiil: Sandy Elias
Hovstad
: Brian Plocharcyzk*
Captain Horster: Kevin Scott
Billing: Tony Bozzuto
Aslaksen: James Eldrenkamp
Morten: Juan Lozada
Eijlif: Kenneth Martin
First Citizen: Tania Negron Flores
Second Citizen: Anna Danielson
Third Citizen: Lee Wichman
Fourth Citizen: Andy Quijano
Drunk: Kurt Conroyd

*Stage Left Ensemble Member

 

Production Team:

Stage Manager: Jessica Fike
Production Manager
:
Robin Plocharcyzk
Scenic Designer: Alan Donahue
Lighting Designer: John Kohn III*
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Flauto
Props Designer: Amy Gilman
Sound Designer: Adam Smith *
Technical Direction: Jayme McGhan
Dramaturg: Zev Valancy *
Assistant Director: Jordy Williams
Graphic Design: Amy Jahnke
Photographer: Johnny Knight

  
  

One Response

  1. I was surprised by your review, because it seems your biggest problem with the show was that it wasn’t timely. But I think the play is really timely. How is the question of “How is the truth presented to the public” ever going to go out of style? Especially in Chicago where politics are more theatre than our theatre!

    Anyway. I just wanted to say I’m surprised and I disagree. I think this is a pretty good play. I hope other people see it.

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