Before you take that next trip to the spa, have the water tested and check out the Hilberry Theatre Company’s production of “An Enemy of the People,” opening February 20 in Midtown. Adapted from a play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and written by Arthur Miller, “An Enemy of the People” is the dramatic tale of a Norwegian town with a single economical resource: a spa that is bubbling with medicinal properties. But when Doctor Thomas Stockmann discovers there are lethal diseases spreading through these healing waters, he runs to his brother, the mayor of the town, in hopes to shut the spa down. Mayor Peter Stockmann, however, knows that removing the spa would financially cripple the town, so he attempts to hide this information, going as far as to turn the town against his brother.
Surrounded by mystery and scandal, “An Enemy of the People” asks its audience to consider the ways in which leaders are perceived by their communities and how the public’s opinion can be easily swayed. Brandy Joe Plambeck, who plays the uncompromising Doctor Stockmann, explains that there’s a disconnect in the play between what’s real and what the public believes to be real. “You’ve got a tragic hero who knows the truth,” says Plambeck, “but because of certain situations, it becomes more difficult than he thought for the truth to be known.” The doctor’s goal is to make the public aware of the poisonous waters, but he is idealistic to a fault, thinking about the safety of the people without considering the town’s fatal attachment to their own prosperity. The mayor represents the other side of the spectrum, focusing on the good of the town without considering the health of its citizens. Plambeck suggests that both of the men have genuine goals to a point, “but the real enemy of the people is pride.”
This manipulation of the public opinion is a common theme throughout “Enemy of the People,” which is why Brandon Grantz, who plays Mayor Stockmann, believes that this show is still relevant today. “Like a mayor who talks to the people in public one way, but then he talks to his brother in another way behind closed doors. This happens today. And it gives insight on the difficult decisions these leaders have to make.”
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