Ibsen classic still rings true at Goodman

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Take a town with a water system that is polluted and put it into a play.

Or take a town or company where the powers that be would rather cover-up a health hazard than pay for a costly fix.

Or take a media outlet that enjoys being in the good graces of a powerful politician so it will publicize fake information rather than the truth.

Flint, Michigan may come to mind, or a nuclear facility worthy of a movie, or name a media outlet you love to hate. Then go see ‘An Enemy of the People,’ written by Henrik Ibsen in 1882 and now playing at Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

Rebecca Hurd (Petra), Jesse Bhamrah (Billing), Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas Stockman), Lanise Antoine Shelley (Katherine) and Aubrey Deeker Hernandez (Hovstad) in An Enemy of the People at Goodman Theatre. Photo by Liz L:auren
Rebecca Hurd (Petra), Jesse Bhamrah (Billing), Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas Stockman), Lanise Antoine Shelley (Katherine) and Aubrey Deeker Hernandez (Hovstad) in ‘An Enemy of the People’ at Goodman Theatre. Photos by Liz Lauren

Adapted and directed by Robert Falls who points out in an online video that the choice is in “response to where the country may be headed,” and that its themes of corruption and environmental disaster make the play “contemporary,” the production ought to be playing all year but will only be at Goodman through April 15, 2019.

Well cast, Philip Earl Johnson brilliantly portrays Thomas Stockmann as a doctor worried about the illnesses he has seen as medical officer of the new Municipal Baths and as an idealist willing to take on townspeople and officials including his elder brother, Peter Stockmann. Peter, the town’s mayor and Thomas’ Baths boss, is depicted perfectly by Scott Jaeck

Lanise Antoine Shelley handles the role of Thomas’ pregnant, second wife Katherine with grace and restraint. Rebecca Hurd is very believable as Thomas’ adult daughter Petra who teaches school and follows her father’s ideals.

David Darlow is Katherine’s cantankerous, sly father Morten “the Badger,” Kiil, the wealthy owner of a tannery that is polluting the water.

Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas Stockmann) and Scott Jaeck (Peter Stockmann) in An Enemy of the People.
Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas Stockmann) and Scott Jaeck (Peter Stockmann) in ‘An Enemy of the People.’

Moving through the plot are Editor Hovstad (Aubrey Deeker Hernandez) of “The Peoples’ Messenger,” Asst. Editor Billing (Jesse Bhamrah) and  Aslaksen (Allen Gilmore), a publisher and the paper’s printer. They are characters who profess one thing then change direction when so determined by political winds.

Clever staging puts the backs of the townspeople to the audience when Thomas tries to hold a meeting to explain scientific findings that declare the bath waters to be toxic. Playing the townspeople are Larry Neumann, Jr. (The Drunk), Carley Cornelius, Arya Daire, Guy Massey, Roderick Peeples and Dustin Whitehead.

Instead of winning friends to his side at the meeting, Thomas insults the townspeople calling them stupid and comparing them to dogs. Even though the opening night theater-goers understood that Thomas’ belittling speech wasn’t going to convince anyone in the town to change, the Goodman audience broke into applause when Thomas pointed out that stupid leaders were elected by stupid people.

Indeed, the play is filled with interesting insights such as “The public doesn’t want new ideas. They are perfectly happy with the old ones.

‘An Enemy of the People’ is at Goodman Theatre , 170 N Dearborn St., Chicago, now through April 15, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including one intermission.  For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 and visit Goodman Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Three haunting shows

 

Several stage productions gladden the December holiday season and there are romantic comedies perfect for February. But when it comes to October, there’s usually a dearth of plays that chill the soul. Not so, this October with three classics to see.

The 'Man-Beast' at First Folio Theatre fits the haunting season. Photo complements of First Folio.
The ‘Man-Beast’ at First Folio Theatre fits the haunting season. Photo from First Folio.

‘The Crucible’

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is doing Arthur Miller’s 1953 scary in a what-can-happen way when seemingly  normal neighbors believe the stories behind the Salem Witch Trials. The play is part of the Steppenwolf for Young Adults series but it really is a play for all generations. Running for only eight public performances from Oct. 4 through Oct. 21, 2017, it’s a chilling reminder of how fake news can spread as if true and the harm it can do. For tickets ($20 general and $15 students) visit Steppenwolf or call (312) 335-1650. Steppenwolf Theatre Company is at 1650 N. Halsted St. Chicago.

‘The Man-Beast’

First Folio Theatre at the possibly haunted Mayslake Peabody Estate, is doing the world premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s ‘The Man-Beast.’ Based on a French legendary werewolf, it’s the third play in his triology of ‘The Gravedigger’ and ‘Dr. Seward’s Dracula.’  The play runs from Oct. 7 through Nov. 5, 2017. Get tickets if you dare see it at First Folio or by calling (630) 986-8067.  Located in a Du Page County forest preserve, First Folio is at  31st St. and Rt. 83 in Oak Brook.

‘GHOSTS & zombies’

Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” a drams that starts out innocently enough with a woman opening an orphanage as a tribute to her dead husband, becomes a dark comedy in the hands of writer Gustav Tegby. Translated by Chad Eric Bergman, the play takes a strange turn when the woman’s estate hosts ghosts and the un-dead. The play is presented by Akvavit Theatre at the Strawdog Theatre Company now through Oct. 29, 2017. For tickets go to Chicago Nordic. Strawdog Theatre Company is at 1802 W. Berenice, Chicago.