I walked into LTVB to see Enemy of the People with much anticipation, never having read the script, but knowing the basic outline of the plot. I was anxious to see the interpretation of such a poignant and relevant piece, and I was not disappointed.
The initial set upon entering took a cleverly minimalist approach, creating a miniature fishing village and mountain range onstage, clouds projected on the cyc, and beautifully colored gobos speckling the mountains to give depth. My concerns that the village and mountains would stay throughout the play, making the actors appears as Gulliver in a Norwegian Lilliput, were thankfully unfounded.
The beginning was a bit rocky. Not being familiar with the script, much less this translation, I can’t be entirely certain who dropped what lines, but it was clear something was amiss. The actors all appeared a bit lost and uncertain until Chris Kypros returned for his second scene as Mayor Peter Stockman. His heated exchange with Steve Wright as Dr. Thomas Stockman, the Mayor’s brother, got things back on track. The tension between these two actors, in every exchange forward, was perfect and palpable. Bravo to both of them.
Tom Coffey seemed very nervous in his portrayal of Hovstad, the editor of the local newspaper, and there was some stumbling later in the show, throwing scenes off rhythm a bit, but nothing unforgivable, especially for opening night. His scene with Petra (Katie Matthews) was, however, on point, and the audience is left with an appropriate sour taste for his character. As for Petra, there were several scenes in which Miss Matthews stole a bit of the spotlight, most notably where Petra defends her father at a town meeting. Billing (Adam Ivey) and Aslaksen (Robin Chapman) provide some needed comic relief and the respective actors are obviously very comfortable with their roles and on stage in general. Kathy Hinson delivered an impressive performance largely based on presence and facial expression, as the character of Catherine does not have a lot to say for much of the play (though when she does speak, it counts).
The lighting throughout was beautiful, and Mike Hilton is to be commended for his design and use of the cyc. Sara Bergandi-Hall’s set design was simplistic and very appropriate, but a back wall to both block entering actors and reflect sound might have been a good addition. Either through direction or a mistake on the part of an actor, some of the lines were delivered directly upstage and absorbed by the cyc, lost to the audience.
MaryLou Mahlman’s costumes were lovely period pieces. Special mention is due for finding the Mayor’s hat. The techno sound design took a while to grow on me. I struggled to hear some relevant lyrics in the pre-show music, but was not able to make any out. The same held true for intermission. Eventually its use in scene changes added to the surreal feel of the whole town swaying from one opinion to the next, but early on it didn’t make much sense. These scene changes, by the way, took entirely too long. Director Matt Downey gives fair warning that “at the beginning of both acts, and before our curtain call, you will experience a longer-than-conventional hold time in the dark.” I did not notice that these blackouts were any longer than usual, but the dimmed scene changes seemed interminable, with one cast member moving one set piece at a time. Whatever the intent, it did not work. However, if that is the biggest problem with your production, given the caliber of performances, I feel you can count it as a success.
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