Entertainment » Theatre

An Enemy of the People

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 20, 2020
An Enemy of the People

Due to the ongoing pandemic, The Players of Barker Playhouse has staged Henrik Ibsen's 1882 drama "An Enemy of the People" as a live radio play. The performance was presented via Zoom on October 16 and 18 and marked the beginning of the company's 112th season. HG Wells' classic "The War of the Worlds" follows on October 31.

The setting is a small Norwegian town where Dr. Stockmann (Becky Minard) has published a report about the contamination of the water in the town's baths. Stockmann's sister Paula (Nancy Winokoor) is the Mayor of the town and is afraid tourists will stop visiting once the news about the tainted water is revealed. Paula threatens to fire Stockmann, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer if she goes public with her findings.

Meanwhile, Hope (Jillian Brooks-Duval) is the editor of the People's Messenger, the local newspaper. Hope is an idealist who wants to expose government corruption and return power to the people.

After Paula rallies the townspeople around her, Stockmann is branded "an enemy of the people" and becomes a pariah. She is then faced with a stark choice: retract her report so she can get her job back, or stick to her guns and speak truth to power, knowing she will have to flee her country to find some semblance of a normal life.

Director Vince Petronio ("Our Town"), who adapted Ibsen's text, changed the genders of the lead characters from male to female. The alteration doesn't hurt the story one bit, considering the women who are in high positions of power in governments around the world.

At first, it was a little disorienting not being able to see the characters inhabit this world. Petronio's storytelling skills and the superior vocal dynamics of his cast succeeded in immersing this reviewer in the drama.

Minard ("Night, Mother") and Winokoor have an electric chemistry as the two sisters who are locked in a battle of wills.

Paula Glen delivers an amusing performance as Alberta, the spunky chairwoman of the town's Small Business Association.

The ensemble also featured veteran stage actors Patricia Hawkridge, Roger Lemelin, and Mark Lema. Stephen Hug ("The Shadow Box") served as the announcer.

"An Enemy of the People" serves as a chilling reflection of the dilemma our nation is facing. The battles between science and propaganda, truth and corporate profits, and virtue and unbridled political ambition are being played out on a seemingly endless loop on cable news and talk radio. We have a President who spreads misinformation about a deadly virus in order to remain in power. We have a President who attacks the media and labels them "an enemy of the people." We have television and radio personalities who traffic in conspiracy theories and promote racial and ethnic divisions.

Stockmann is the heart and soul of Ibsen's play and stands as a pillar of reason in a world gone mad. She encourages all of us to stand tall against oppression and to shine a light on greed and injustice.

The Players have delivered an enthralling production which will hopefully inspire other theater organizations to present their own unique visions in the coming months. The stage lights may remain dark for a while but the artistry of the actors, writers, directors, and sound engineers who work on the shows may have an avenue to fulfill their craft by performing radio plays.

The Players at the Barker Playhouse. 400 Benefit St, Providence, RI. For more information about their upcoming productions, visit playersri.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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