Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
An Enemy of the People
Actors and stagehands, strolling up and down the aisles 10 minutes before opening curtain, mingle and converse with willing theatergoers. For example, Reg Rogers (in the lead as Doctor Thomas Stockmann), a known, fine performer both in New York City and at regionals, smiles broadly and exchanges greetings in most relaxed fashion before ascending the stage. The same is true for Joey Parsons (Mrs. Catherine Stockmann), who laughs easily and does a bit of a solo dance before readying for performance. The director's decision to commence informally creates a friendly, warm, inviting environment. The actual plot of An Enemy of the People is anything but kindly.
The bathing facility in the small Scandinavian village plays a pivotal role in keeping the town fiscally solvent. Dr. Stockmann has discovered the toxic quality of the water as the system discharges. He contacts Hovstad (Bobby Roman), editor of the paper and, seemingly, a progressive man. Also attending is Aslaksen (Tyrone Mitchell Henderson), who sets print. These two at first appear to support Stockmann. Yet the protagonist's brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann (Enrico Colantoni), is vociferously oppositional, fearful of the expense should the situation need to be corrected. Thereafter, Hovstad and Aslaksen both turn against the doctor.
Scenic designer Emona Stoykova's set revolves, and the second portion, after intermission, finds many seated people on either side as Dr. Stockmann, an idealistic soul, declares in an impassioned speech that people must listen to conscience. His immediate family members, including spouse Catherine (Parsons), daughter Petra (Stephanie Machado), who has been teaching but who will be fired, and Petra's little brothers all stand by this man. Still, the doctor is dismissed even as he, given his strength of character, is forthright and steadfast.
The combination of imaginative directorial approach, top quality acting, and original music makes certain that what otherwise might be deemed melodramatic or didactic Ibsen is, instead, attention getting. The play's messaging is altogether timely and welcome. Dr. Stockmann is animated and emotive, while his brother the mayor is opportunistic. Catherine prods her husband to stay true and his daughter seems to have inherited traits from her father, the physician. Aslaksen points out several times that he is a moderate. He represents homeowners and, well, he is an exasperating individual. Captain Horster (Setareki Wainiqolo) is loyal to the doctor. Morten Kill (Jarlath Conroy), father-in-law of Dr. Stockmann, is wealthy and runs tanneries which Stockmann reveals are polluted.
During intervals, actors engage in dances created by choreographer David Dorfman; these are lovely, spirited interludes. Throughout, costumer Sophia Choi's selections are period appropriate.
Precise casting provides for uniformly expressive, disciplined performance. Rogers, as Stockmann, is particularly persuasive as he grabs the doctor's urgent argument and fully delivers. Parsons, as his steadying, faithful wife, never vacillates. The production is fluentable to accentuate positions which are ever relevant during our early 21st century. The current rendering evidences director James Bundy's distinctive perception of the play.
An Enemy of the People continues through October 28, 2017, at University Theatre as part of Yale Repertory Theatre's season in New Haven, Connecticut. For information and tickets, call (203) 432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.