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Review Roundup: AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

Review Roundup: AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes opened last night at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street). 

AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE features Boyd Gaines, Richard Thomas, Maïté Alina, Gerry Bamman, Kathleen McNenny, Randall Newsome, John Procaccino, Michael Siberry, and James Waterston. The ensemble also includes Mike Boland, Victoria Frings, Andrew Hovelson, John Robert Tillotson and Ray Virta.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: The pedal-to-the-metal approach has its advantages. With voices clamoring from the stage at top volume for much of the evening, your attention is rarely likely to stray from the finely spun web of ideas animating Ibsen’s play, about the ruckus raised in a Norwegian spa town when the local doctor discovers that the waters are poisoned. 

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: One word comes up more than a dozen times in the new Broadway revival of “An Enemy of the People”: “restraint.” Ironically, it’s exactly what’s lacking in this amped-up production of the Henrik Ibsen classic, which is broader than the Otra River.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Gaines, who often plays good guys and saps, makes the most of his sympathy capital. At first you feel for his character, especially since he has noble intentions. But then he claims, self-servingly, that “the majority is the most insidious enemy to freedom.” So much for democracy.

Mark Kennedy, Associated PressBoyd Gaines and Richard Thomas are marvelous as the battling brothers at the heart of the play, but there are terrific turns also by Gerry Bamman, Michael Siberry and Kathleen McNenny. Director Doug Hughes paces it like a thriller, with the heat rising steadily.

Linda Winer, Newsday: Don't be put off by any grumbles about the conversational, tightened two-hour adaptation that the Manhattan Theatre Club uses for the rare Broadway production of this timely classic. Yes, British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz tosses off the occasional jarring anachronism -- "cash cow," "restraining order," etc.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: This Manhattan Theatre Club production also has a huge asset in leading man Boyd Gaines, whose Thomas is a distinctly earthbound but still mesmerizing force of nature -- by turns formidable, frail, frazzled, funny and tragic. Gaines captures all the arrogance and compassion of a man devoted to a noble but impossible cause, letting us see both the wisdom in his words and their futility.

Michael Musto, Village Voice: The solid Gaines--who also played the voice of reason in recent revivals of Gypsy and 12 ANGRY MEN--knows how to do decency. And Thomas is good as the priggish, misguided mayor who considers himself the town's moral center (though he seems to recede as his character does).

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: Like its spiritual grandchild The Normal Heart, Ibsen’s drama scores hard points against real social ills while also suggesting that a passionate crusader, frozen in the spotlight of his truth, can sometimes be his own worst enemy.

Adam Markavitz, Entertainment Weekly: Never mind that it takes place in 19th-century Norway. The battle between two brothers in An Enemy of the People, Henrik Ibsen's spitting-mad screed against political hypocrisy among polite small-towners, tackles more hot-button election-year issues than an average hour of MSNBC.

Suzt Evans, Backstage: Rebecca Lenkiewicz has transformed Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play “An Enemy of the People,” an insightful work about the cost of free expression, into a coherent, topical, and thrilling piece that pokes and prods at our own moral fiber. Expertly realized by director Doug Hughes, the production succeeds on merit instead of flashiness or celebrity—with an outstanding cast of theater veterans led by Richard Thomas and Boyd Gaines—and causes us to question just how far we are willing to go to stand up for our beliefs.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:  Unlike the lavish 1997 National Theatre production starring Ian McKellen, this staging is on the minimal side, with an effective revolving turntable set and a relatively small cast in which the understudies also play the townspeople in the pivotal climactic town hall meeting scene.

Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: I couldn't help but think of an ATF agent named Peter Forcelli while I watched the super-charged Broadway revival of An Enemy of the People, Henrik Ibsen's play about a man who tries to do the right thing and makes the awful discovery that in his Norwegian town, money is the root of all truth. The man is a whistleblower, and is reviled by everyone for the message he delivers: The water in the town's spas - its lifeblood - has become toxic.

Matt Windman, amNY: But these issues aside, "An Enemy of the People" makes for exciting, politically-charged theater. Gaines, one of our best stage actors, makes a credible transition into a determined dissident, while Thomas is a perfectly smug and dapper villain.  

 Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Richard Thomas does everything but twirl his mustache as the bogeyman in the Broadway revival of “An Enemy of the People.” That’s because he doesn’t have a mustache to twirl. The other accouterments of villainy -- black top hat and bowtie framing a lip-curling sneer, cape and cane wielded with menacing flourishes -- are all accounted for in Doug Hughes’s clipped vaudeville of a production.

Terry Teachout, Wallstreet JournalRebecca Lenkiewicz's "new version" of "An Enemy of the People" is yet another attempt to update Henrik Ibsen's smug 1882 satire about a visionary doctor (Boyd Gaines) who becomes a pariah when he makes a discovery that threatens to gut the economy of the hypocriticAl Small town in which he lives. (Yes, the doctor is a self-portrait of the playwright as genius.)

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record:  Ibsen wrote the play, at least in part, as a response to the public outcry against his previous play, "Ghosts," which bashed Victorian morality and made reference to syphilis. Lenkiewicz seems to give special emphasis to Stockmann’s conflicting qualities. The problem with that, aside from meshing his contradictions into a single, recognizable human being, is that it sticks out of the play like a sore thumb. None of the other characters are in any way complex. The bad guys are essentially nasty, two-dimensional opportunists.

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