An Enemy of the People – Review by Tom Nissley

There’s a magnificent production of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” at Yale Rep, directed by James Bundy.

Dr. Thomas Stockman – the medical director of a spa in a coastal town in Norway, entertains friends at his beautiful home overlooking the Fjords, and is grateful for having some income to live well with his family after years of just scraping by in a community in the north. His brother, Peter. the Mayor, points out that his influence had a lot to do with Thomas’ appointment, and encourages him not to be critical of the toxins that Thomas has discovered in the runoff into the spa’s waters that devolve from a Tannery’s waste waters. But, buoyed by a good relationship he has fostered with the Editor and reporter of the town Newspaper, Thomas goes ahead with his project of revealing the poisons in the Spa waters.

What’s the problem? Tourism and visitors to the Spa are the main income of the town. The home owners’ association is dead set against raising taxes to pay for any clean-up. The suggestion that the waters are unclean could cause a pleasant economy to come crashing down. At a town meeting, Thomas is stopped from reading his findings to the town. Instead he remarks on the poison in the system that has kept free thought, free speech, and truth obscured by political maneuvering. The town votes to name him an “Enemy of the People,” but Thomas, supported by his wife, and daughter, and sons, vows to continue to speak truth against power.

You can stop reading this review, but quickly get tickets to this wonderful production now. Just go. You won’t be sorry. Reg Rogers is terrific as Thomas Stockman – a bundle of energy that keeps bouncing with passion for his cause. Joey Parsons is marvelous as his wife, Catherine, at first urging him to think of how his impetuousness will drag her and the children into stress, and later fiercely defending him regardless of hurt to family, is a powerhouse. Stephanie Machado as Thomas’ daughter, Petra, is even more so – she voices integrity over family, knocking suitors away like bowling pins in the process. And Enrico Colantoni, Mayor Peter Stockman, though easily disliked in his role, is consistent and vibrant in his explanation of why his power should be appreciated with kisses applied behind. All the cast rises to the roles they play and acting in chorus, they are superb.

The production is presented as an ensemble: when the actors are not immediately on stage, they are visible on the sidelines, and jump to attention as their presence is called for. So, great appreciation to Mr. Bundy for the delightful staging. But the credits roll on. The set (Emona Stoykova) is an open cube, that rotates into the next scene, and again the next, with a large curtain that acts as a wall in several locations. So, the first scene is quite open, the Stockmans’ home, showing the beautiful Fjord beyond, while the next scene is the Newspaper Office, with a print shop behind the curtain. Turn once again and it is a room in the home of Captain Horster (Setareki Wainiqolo), who has allowed the town meeting to convene there. Creative and beautiful to experience. There is fine music accompanying the change of scenes and emotions, thanks to Composer Matthew Suttor. The lighting is designed by Krista Smith, and sound by Tye Hunt Fitzgerald. Period costumes are magnificent, thanks to Sophia Choi. And the flow of choreography on stage and through the auditorium is abetted by David Dorfman.

You could visit this production just to marvel at the visual splendor, but of course the real import is Ibsen’s dynamic insistence that speaking truth, a lonely habit, is the only virtue in times of political stress. The company happily accommodates Registration to Vote at the Intermission and just after the curtain falls. You can cast your vote for this great production by checking into www.yalerep.org, or calling the box office at 203-432-1234.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre. October 19, 2017

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