Theatre Review: ‘An Enemy of the People’ at CENTERSTAGE

The cast of CENTERSTAGE’S production of ‘An Enemy of the People.’ Photo by Richard Anderson.

What if exposing the truth will rip from you your family, friends, home, and in your community’s mind, take your honor, standing and sanity? What would you do? That is what CENTERSTAGE asks its audience in its 50th Anniversary Season kick-off of An Enemy of the People. Kwame Kwei-Armah directs this outstanding production of An Enemy of the People, which Arthur Miller adapted from the play by Henrik Ibsen.

As the play begins, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, played by the talented and charming Dion Graham, is gloriously happy with his beautiful home, wife, children and friends. He enjoys his popularity in his small Norwegian town.  The mayor is his brother, Peter Stockmann, played by Hopkins alum Kevin Kilner in a triumphant return to the Baltimore stage after extensive film and television roles.  The two brothers grow closer as they spearhead a large investment of private and public funds in their town’s new vacation destination of medicinal baths.  The townsfolk are excited about the additional tourism and revenue the baths will bring and take great pride in their new vacation spot.

Kevin Kilner, Wilbur Edwin Henry, and Dion Graham. Photo by Richard Anderson.

Soon a dark, heavy cloud moves over the town, arriving in the form of the doctor’s test results of the town’s water that supplies the baths.  The waste runoff from the local tannery is contaminating the water, causing serious illness to the townspeople and tourists.  Dr. Stockmann believes these findings will be his greatest achievement and joyfully sends reports to his brother and the local paper setting forth a proposed solution to the tainted water problem.

Dr. Stockmann is shocked that his brother does not acknowledge the seriousness of runoff problem and refuses even to address it publically.  As Mayor, Peter sees nothing but the prospect of the town’s financial collapse.  Unwilling to believe that the townspeople would care more for financial prosperity than the health and well being of their children and others, Dr. Stockmann announces his intent to take his findings directly to the public. The doctor’s brother warns him, “Without power, what good is the truth?” and suggests that he will be fired and lose the town’s respect if he discloses the results.

Dr. Stockmann refuses to relent and holds a town meeting.  As predicted, his friends and allies, who had been supporters of his campaign, turn against him all at once.  He is denounced as an “enemy of the people,” and the entire town begins to believe that Dr. Stockmann is aggressively working to harm their well-being.   His brother does nothing to protect Dr. Stockmann or his family, even as rocks are hurled through the doctor’s windows and his children return home bruised and bleeding from fights at school.  In the end, Dr. Stockmann decides to stand his ground and fight for what he believes is right, culminating is his retort to his brother, “Without moral authority – there is no government!”

Kwame Kwei-Armah directs this outstanding production…This well acted, thought-provoking play should not be missed.

Set in the backdrop of 1960’s televised debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the characters are exposed on stage and on screen with live television cameras and camera operators (Alex Braslavsky, William Dalrymple, and Hillary Mazer) broadcasting facial emotions in close-ups on the many television sets framing the stage.

Dion Graham in CENTERSTAGE’S production of ‘An Enemy of the People.’ Photo by Richard Anderson.

The costumes (designed by David Burdick) were well done, with all the characters in greys, whites, blacks and touches of red on the characters, I think, were the ones that believe in the value of truth.  Additionally, Jimi Kinstle, as a very convincing town drunk, provides some welcome comic relief during the intense town meeting.

Graham and Kilner played well off each other, pushing every scene to its emotional limits. When Dr. Stockmann realizes that he must stand alone against his brother, the atmosphere on stage is chilling.  At the end of the play, Graham brings a powerful honesty to Dr. Stockman’s declarations, “The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone,” and “A minority may be right: a majority is always wrong.”

What would you do in Dr. Stockmann’s situation?  This well acted, thought-provoking play should not be missed.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

An Enemy of the People plays through October 21, 2012 at CENTERSTAGE, 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD  21202.  For more information or for tickets, click here.

About April Forrer

April Forrer has been a Maryland resident for over 15 years, having moved from Washington, DC after graduate school at the George Washington University. She began her writing career on Capitol Hill as a speech and legislation writer for two U.S. Representatives. She then started working with non-profits to enhance their media and development outreach. She now spends her professional time writing her first novel and designing and constructing costumes for theatrical productions. She savors her time spent with her three children, her dog and her husband. April is thrilled to be the Maryland Theatre Guide’s Editor for the Greater Baltimore area.