AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Florian Borchmeyer (Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman). Runs to November 1,.
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Florian Borchmeyer (Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman). Runs to November 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm, October 21 and 28 at 1:30 pm. $28-$60, some discounts $15 rush if available. 416-531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. Rating: NNNN
What a difference the sex of a sibling and spouse makes.
Last year, the Tarragon scored a hit with its adaptation of Henrik Ibsens An Enemy Of The People, adapted by Florian Borchmeyer for Berlins Schaubuhne Theatre and translated for the Canadian staging by Maria Milisavljevic.
At the productions centre is Stockmann, a doctor in a small spa town who discovers that the water feeding the successful spa (and thus the towns economy) is polluted with E. coli. Trouble is, the docs brother, Peter, chairs the baths board and doesnt want to make Stockmanns report public.
Several new actors step into the remount, notably Laura Condlln, who replaces Joe Cobden as Stockmann the plays chemistry changes noticeably, without losing its power.
Stockmann (here Thomasina instead of Thomas), married to Katarina (Tamara Podemski), is initially supported by their left-of-centre newspaper friends, Hovstad and Billing (Kyle Mac and Lyon Smith), who intend to publish her report. Even the papers well-to-do publisher, Aslaksen (Tom Barnett), is on Stockmanns side.
But over time, her supporters are co-opted in a frightening manner. Even the audience is brought into the action in a striking town-hall forum scene, in the process being forced to face ethical quandaries the narrative brings up.
Director Richard Rose keeps the dramatic energy high throughout the plays two hours, notably in the encounters between Stockmann and Peter (the splendid Rick Roberts). Last years confrontation was in part a jealous battle between brothers here its the older bro bullying his baby sister, who initially shrinks from him, trying to disappear into the blackboard walls of Michelle Traceys effective, chalk-scrawled set.
But the initially naive Stockmann grows in confidence over the course of the show, and Condlln becomes powerful, not only as a determined bringer of what she sees as the truth but also as a loving spouse who scribbles a heart on the chalkboard, a sort of visual aside, to Katarina.
The actor isnt afraid to make her character unlikeable at times a person youd want on your side but not necessarily someone youd have as a friend. Condlln uses Stockmanns long, personal speech at the forum, which criticizes hypocrisy on a large social scale, as a way of defining the doctor the words have a theatrical weight that didnt resonate as strongly last year.
Theres large- and small-scale politics everywhere in the action, not only concerning the community as a whole but also within the newspaper office itself. Peter is the supreme politico, a casuist who gets manipulative support from Aslaksen at the forum Roberts and Barnett expertly shape the lively scene, lobbing responses back at the audience for every point we offer.
But theres another twist of the narrative screw involving Katarinas father, factory owner Kiil (David Fox), who moves from a doddering figure on the sidelines to a plotting, seductive devil.
And thats the strength of this Enemy: it makes us question what it takes for every one of us to be seduced over to the side we know isnt right.