Jeremy Strong on Broadway’s ‘Enemy of the People’ review: Strangely disappointing

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New York – Real life can be stranger and more thrilling than fiction, especially when the lines between the two merge across great distances. When angry protesters stood up and approached the stage during Thursday’s performance of “An Enemy of the People” at the Circle in the Square Theatre, the performance seemed less like a disruption than a steady revival of what was otherwise an invigorating coup. Was.

Jeremy Strong stood on a bartop, a self-righteous-rebellious pose not unfamiliar to Kendall Roy, the scion of “Succession,” whose notoriety turned Henrik Ibsen’s somewhat harsh 1882 morality tale into a hot Broadway ticket. Has helped to change. Strong’s character, Dr. Thomas Stockman, was to earn his nickname by using a town-hall-style meeting to condemn soon-to-open local bathhouses for spewing poisonous water.

Hint at climate activists: Affiliated with a group known as Extinction Rebellion, they made an apparent connection between the small-town Norwegian drama and the urgent global crisis, shouting that “the seas are rising and this town Will Swallow” and “No Theatre, Dead Planet!” Some actors returned to their roles while staff struggled to end the disruption. watch video And you’ll notice that almost no one in the audience, including me, seemed surprised.

That’s because the new version of Amy Herzog’s text, and the staging this time around by her husband Sam Gould, already aimed to blur the distinction between past and present. (Patrons were invited on stage for free shots of Lini Aquavit during a brief intermission, which sounded like a sponcon for Norway.)

The bold themes of Ibsen’s parable – the fragility of truth in the face of mob mentality, the spread of misinformation by the press, the prize of money at the expense of nature – hardly need updating.

But Herzog, who adapted last season’s acclaimed revival of “A Doll’s House,” has also reimagined Ibsen’s story with a streamlined, contemporary vernacular. In crisp, clear dialogue, the action wraps up in just under two hours, with some characters fleshed out – Thomas is now a widower – and others empowered, notably his daughter Petra (a The charming Victoria Pedretti), whose warmth and integrity give the proceedings some heart.

There’s only a modest level of obsession with Petra’s brief courtship by newspaper editor Hovstad (a solid Caleb Eberhart), who turns from her father’s staunchest ally into his most vocal enemy, and Thomas’s water-contamination study. Refuses to publish once. It is clear that this news can lead to financial ruin of the city.

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But the production’s lack of fire (despite beautiful, lantern-rich lighting design by Isabella Bird) stems from the good Doctor himself. Strong holds Thomas’ convictions like a loose hand on a briefcase, maintaining cool composure even when battered by traitors attempting to make a deadly discovery and then expose him. Famous for his extreme-sport acting approach, Strong looks alive to every moment on stage, but never fully engages in its consequences – even when he is left lying on the floor afterwards .

The gears of Ibsen’s logic turn slowly – how did Thomas not immediately realize that fixing the water problem would be expensive? – Allowing the audience to move forward and watch the characters catch up. It’s hard to dramatize the delayed stories of a supposedly brilliant man, and Strong takes a restrained approach. Similarly, in his angry speech, he called his haters an ignorant and complacent gang. After the loud screams of the real protesters, Strong’s delivery seemed even more subdued.

Pairing Strong with Michael Imperioli, making his Broadway debut, as Peter, Thomas’s brother and the mayor who leads the charge against them, gives the revival a decidedly cable-drama prestige. But “The White Lotus” star’s bottled-storm-cloud intensity is less diffuse on stage, and the sinister camaraderie between the rival siblings is only intermittently believable.

Gold’s attention to texture and tactile detail asks the viewer to lean in; The play’s early scenes foster a playful intimacy that is later destroyed by civil strife. From the delicate border on Petra’s woolen shawl (costumes were created by David Zinn) to the rosemaling patterns painted on the white set (by design collective Dots), the production creates a seductive and reassuring world in the realm of the senses. But this moment required a shocking attack to jolt the moral of the story.

public enemy, at the Circle in the Square Theater in New York through June 16. 2 hours.,

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