Friday, October 23, 2015

photos by Cylla von Tiedemann

The current re-mount of Tarragons 2014 hit An Enemy of the People, translated by Maria Milislavljevic from Florian Borchmeyer’s German adaptation of the original Ibsen, is strangely anti-climactic during this post-trauma daze of a liberal majority sweeping us into the unpredictable heady daze of Canada’s second coming of Trudeaumania fanfare. Having been blown away by the political power of last year’s production I was expecting even more clout this time around. And yet, Ibsen’s simple and direct message about communities floundering dangerously at municipal levels, at the hands of federal prowess and neglect, lacks the details we are waiting, with baited breath, to see manifest themselves – or not – in the coming Canadian wintry months.

Nevertheless. The production still possesses very impressive theatrical strains, yet weakens slightly in light of current political mayhem and the threat of trans-pacific overtures.

The lead role of Dr Stockmann, this time around played by Laura Condlin, renders the script somewhat more gender divided, and yet the change is slight as the characters are all at the mercy of underdeveloped emotional back stories, thereby extracting the detail of Stockman’s same sex relationship from a script that might have saw fit to add a little more domestic drama to the intensely political plot.

Condlin delivers a very layered and idiosyncratic performance with effectively manic vocals and powerful drive. Rick Roberts – reprising his role as Stockmann’s handsome and obnoxious brother matches his sisters vitriol and prowess with fine emotional characterization and engaging charisma that makes one see very clearly how an extremely attractive politician can worm his way into the fabric of community consent.
David Fox as the elderly conniving oligarch  creates a sinister and highly entertaining portrayal of Dr. Stockmann’s father-in-law  as he represents an odd lurking harbinger of profit and doom. Tamara Podemski as the pregnant half of the same sex Stockmann couple plays off her spouses frenetic political energy with power and tenderness - and yet a misplaced sexualized moment mid -play is never reprised and renders the character a little plotless and inexplicably compromised. Kyle Mac and Lyle Smith flesh out the ensemble with the frenzied ever changing liberal panic that punctuates the drama with the necessary layers of dystopian hopelessness essential to this realism’ic portrayal of current political warfare.

The musical sub narrative, utilizing an old David Bowie favorite acts as a recurring lightning-like motif within the rock band within the play device, and reminds viewers that all political ch ch ch ch change can reside within the predictable flip flop from lib to con and back again - so prevalent in this country. The music is entertaining and breaks the depressive political action as a refreshing strain now and then, but could be much further developed as part of the community narrative that never fully surfaces in this manifesto of highly charged rises, falls, and uncivilized, mind boggling rationalizations.

A lengthy scene mid play becomes a harrowing testament to just how far civilizations seem to have fallen into a pit of regurgitating corporate compost in the last century or two  - or more – as culture continues to freshen and de-freshen all we claim to hold dear – from family to food, health, leisure activity, and the glistening dubious beauty of cheap bottled water. Ontario’s not so distant Walkerton tragedy and the ever-increasing Californicated aridity of lawns and luxury loom large within the meta-cultural-message of the play. The brilliant giant chalkboard set by Michelle Tracey sets the tone for the whitewashed easily erasable theme of political dishonesty as titles and messages are posted in chalk then washed away and obliterated - with the messenger - as quickly as they have been proclaimed.

Director Richard Rose creates a tsunami like ebb and flow with Rick Roberts at the helm with his explosive performance. Condlin fights back with unflinching power and gained public support in the inter-active townhall scene mid-play that had, the night after the election, spectators challenging every neo- liberal word that came out of the male municipal leaders mouths. The bleak message of the play is surprisingly tempered and distempered by the town hall segment decrying the merits of growth  and liberal majorities that frequently do not in fact represent real change - rather, a remaining of the status quo that simply looks like change yet continues to threaten the core of society – in this case- WATER. On tuesday night one viewer impolitely and fervently asked the male actors to “shut the fuck up” for a few minutes in order to enjoy a much needed silence - and to hear more from the lone politicized woman as she spoke her mind before being edited and prefaced by corrupt manly voices.
An Enemy of the People is a timely remount in a city and a country that has endured years of political intrigue, now standing at a threshold of a new majority that may – or may not – deliver the real change a thirsty continent needs in the face of future drought, contamination, and ongoing social mayhem, change, and delight tra la....

I’d love to see a musical version…


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