Review: PUBLIC ENEMY at New Fortune Theatre Company

Playing through July 2nd

By: Jun. 11, 2023
Review: PUBLIC ENEMY at New Fortune Theatre Company

New Fortune Theatre Company brings the West Coast premiere of PUBLIC ENEMY, a streamlined new version of Henrik Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, to the stage.  With a talented cast, this one act shows that the idea of the truth of being dangerous to the “greater good,” as defined by those in power, has always been a relevant one.  PUBLIC ENEMY is playing through July 2nd. 

When the play opens, we find the Stockmann home open and friendly, with many friends and family arriving and celebrating the success of the town as a tourist spot thanks to their medical baths.  Years prior Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Richard Baird) discovered the benefits of the town's waters, and the whole town has benefited from the town quickly rebranding to focus on their healing waters.  

Review: PUBLIC ENEMY at New Fortune Theatre Company

Now, Stockmann, who is also the medical officer of the Baths, has suspicions that some of the illnesses reported by visitors after visiting mean there is something dangerous in the waters.  He is impatiently waiting for the reports back on some samples he sent out for study. He is confident that once the town knows about the issues, they will thank him for his work and want to fix everything as quickly as possible.

His brother Peter (Nick Kennedy) is the Mayor and the chairman of the Baths governing committee, which makes him Thomas’ boss in these matters.  He forbids Thomas to say anything about these suspicions.  

Newspaper editor Hovstad (Trevor Cruse) is very excited to publish the report's findings, especially since it will upset the elites in the swamp of politics that he dislikes.  The printer Aslaksen (Neil McDonald) is also the chair of the Small Business Federation and is initially onboard with support as well.

However, once the reality of what it would take to fix the cause of the problem that is poisoning the waters, Thomas finds that their promised support is quickly retracted.  This leaves Thomas with no choice but to take it to a public town hall, where he expects the community to take these scientific facts and the opportunity to help themselves and the town, even if it means sacrificing some of the comforts they have quickly gotten used to in their economic success. 

As Thomas finds the change from public savior to public enemy is swift, he doesn’t hesitate to let the town know how he feels about their casual disregard for safety in favor of their own personal gain. It seems they prefer a poisoned source of prosperity and are willing to gamble with everyone’s health and wellness to keep it.

Review: PUBLIC ENEMY at New Fortune Theatre Company

As the battling brothers, Baird and Kennedy are a formidable pair as they circle each other as each other's opposite.  Both are smart and articulate, but where Peter is cunning and rigidly formal in a double-breasted vest and suit, Baird’s Thomas is more naive in his belief in people as a whole and is softer in his cardigan and blazer.

Amanda Schaar as Thomas’s wife Katrine is a calming voice of reason as things escalate, while Cruse as Hovstad has a nice turn to a heartless cad as his true character is revealed.

Does it fully make sense how this educated doctor and scientist, albeit a bit of a naive idealist, descends into ranting so quickly to previously loved friends and neighbors?  No, but Baird makes it a riveting decent, with all the fire and brimstone of a preacher trying to save his flock.

Review: PUBLIC ENEMY at New Fortune Theatre Company

The ensemble is full of talented performers and along with those mentioned above include Danny Campbell, Nick Daugherty, Geoffrey Ulysses Geissinger, Anthony Graf, Walter Murray, and Kimberly Weinberger.

Directed by Richard Baird, the piece moves briskly and makes the slide from the more comedic overtones into something darker easily.  While this adaption has a decidedly political, and environmental versus economic point to it that could feel very on the nose for today, Ibsen wrote his version with similar themes in 1883.  Apparently the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This idea of the government or people that you individually trust making problematic decisions to keep the power, money, and/or influence is an age-old one, and easily adaptable.  After all, if you take Baird’s Stockmann and turn him into the police chief of a small island, and the bacteria in the water into a more visible but equally elusive great white shark, you have JAWS.

How To Get Tickets

PUBLIC ENEMY by New Fortune Theatre Company is playing through July 2nd in the theatre at Westminster Presbyterian Church.  For show time and ticket information go to

Photo Credit: New Fortune Public Enemy photo by Bryan Baird



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