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Photograph: Johnny KnightAn Enemy of the People at Stage Left Theatre

An Enemy of the People at Stage Left Theatre | Theater review

Arthur Miller’s McCarthy-era adaptation of Ibsen’s political drama proves timelessly relevant.


When Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Watt) discovers poisonous bacteria in the town spa’s water supply, the local newspaper initially vows to support his crusade for change. His brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann (Krebsbach), threateningly outlines for the editor and publisher the economics of installing a new water system—tax hikes and loss of revenue for the town—and the doctor quickly loses his strongest advocates. As the mayor’s campaign to discredit his brother gains momentum in the community, Dr. Stockmann’s refusal to abandon his convictions puts his family and career at risk.

An Enemy of the People challenges the principle of majority rule, questioning the motives of those best poised to sway public opinion. Current politics aside, it’s a testament to the strengths of both playwrights that Miller’s McCarthy-era adaptation of Ibsen’s 1882 play retains searing relevance. Reset in 1959 Norway, Stage Left’s revival wisely resists the common urge to situate timeless scripts in too-modern times, instead focusing on clear storytelling.

Fleece capably wrangles his large, talented if occasionally uneven cast on Alan Donahue’s well-appointed set. Watt’s heartfelt performance excellently counters Krebsbach’s acutely evil demeanor; scenes between the brothers are most captivating. Though some of the broader comedy feels a bit out of place, James Eldrenkamp’s absurdly funny, Muppet-like publisher Aslaksen and Sandy Elias’s shrewd turn as the doctor’s opportunistic father-in-law are also highlights. Chandwaney’s a bit stilted as Mrs. Stockmann; her energy tends to clash with Watt’s, though she strikes a more realistic tone in the powerful second act.

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