A canvas drapes over the entire proscenium, featuring a beautiful but foreboding painting (almost in the style of Dali) of the characters of An Enemy of the People struggling, their bodies flailing in desperation or looming in disappointment. Something of outrageous proportions is about to unfold, and this viewer was nervously aware of it.
As the canvas rises, we are whisked away to a post-modern European mountain town, where we soon find the conflict: poison in the water supply. Dr. Thomas Stockmann has found certain plague in the town’s baths, but his brother Peter, the mayor, will stop at nothing to save his people from the economic devastation this discovery might cause.
A Knife Couldn’t Cut This Tension
What ensues for the rest of the play is a strategic and brutal battle between brothers over whose ideals will prevail, played expertly and tactfully by Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas) and Scott Jaeck (Peter). Those who love the subtle complex drama of House of Cards, Newsroom, The West Wing, or even Game of Thrones will find themselves right at home in the Albert Theatre. When Johnson and Jaeck are in a room alone together, there is no telling who is going to snap. One minute Jaeck seems to have the upper hand, his bellowing echoing throughout the theatre, when suddenly Johnson attacks, grabbing for his throat and slamming him against a table.
Vibrant People in a Muted World
The buildings and rooms these characters thrive in reminded this viewer of the vintage future fever dreams of the 50s. A ridiculous lamp that set designer Todd Rosenthal has placed over the couch in the Stockmann living room comes to mind. Slanted windowed ceilings that rotate and shatter are just one of the innovations you can look forward to. Richard Woodbury’s original music features brisk violins and upbeat jazzy drums that serve as a metaphor for the perpetually driving gears of society at work. Yet the most striking aspect of this production is the fashion. This viewer will not get Aubrey Deeker Hernandez’s neon red pants, or the mayor’s royal violet overcoat (courtesy of costume designer Ana Kuzmanic) out his head any time soon.
Goodman Theatre Gives A Warning For Today
This Henrik Ibsen play was written 150 years ago, but from Robert Fall’s adaptation (not to mention artful direction), you would think it was written specifically about today’s political climate. The characters struggle with misplaced radicalism, draining the swamp, deplorables, and outrage for the people in power, or even outrage manifested through manipulation by the people in power themselves. For those looking for a play about standing up for what you believe in, or about current events, this is a must-see.
As Thomas Stockmann gives his impassioned ode and demand for the intellectuals and education, under harsh metal bars, and surrounded by a cacophony of boos and confidantes turned traitors, you begin to wonder what has happened to this innocent little town, and question if it’s so different from our own.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago
Tuesdays: Dark; 7:30 performance on April 3
Wednesdays: 7:30 pm; no performance on March 21
Thursdays: 2 pm and 7:30 pm; no 2 pm performance on March 22
Fridays: 8 pm
Saturdays: 2 pm and 8 pm
Sundays: 2 pm and 7:30 pm; no 7:30 performance on March 25 or April 8
170 North Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60601
Philip Earl Johnson
Lanise Antoine Shelley
Aubrey Deeker Hernandez
Larry Neumann, Jr.