Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ibsen Tells Timely Tale in `Enemy'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ibsen Tells Timely Tale in `Enemy'

Article excerpt

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

"An Enemy of the People," written 111 years ago, might have been written last week. Henrik Ibsen's powerful drama, pitting ethics and health against commerce and greed, opened a monthlong run at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis on Friday, and it remains a searing, impressive play with strong performances bringing all its emotions to the fore.

Unfortunately, the ending of 1883 would undoubtedly play out in the same manner in 1994, and that's the greatest tragedy of all. The adaptation, by Arthur Miller, probably strengthens the tie-ins with contemporary society.

Ibsen, a playwright angry enough to make England's "Angry Young Men" look like pikers, wrote "Enemy" as a result of audience reaction toward "Ghosts," when he had the nerve to discuss venereal disease and created anger equal to that felt by American playwrights who wrote of AIDS a decade ago.

"Enemy" deals with a young, idealistic physician in a town where mineral springs are about to make everyone rich, with the mayor (the physician's brother) boasting about new streets, hotels, shops, schools and jobs in the same terms used by mayors today when they talk about gambling or country music.

Thomas Stockmann, the doctor, learns that the water is polluted by runoff from a tannery in the mountains above the Norwegian town and tries to go public. In his naivete, he thinks the citizens will call him a hero. But that's not the way things work, either then or now. The town's leading citizens own the springs and have convinced the citizens that great wealth is just around the corner.

Suddenly, Dr. Stockmann and his family are pariahs, traitors, enemies of the people.

Ibsen has another chamber in his gun. …

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