The current production for Theatre J is an adaptation of Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People”. This adaptation takes place in modern day Israel in a town built up solely due to industry. The show opens with there having been a leak in the factory spilling contaminated water back into the water supply. The show focuses on a scientist and his brother, the mayor of the town. They are on opposite sides of the issue with the scientist intending to release a report that would expose the pollution caused by the industry and his brother who is running for re-election trying to politically manage the crisis. This is all intertwined with an activist daughter who teaches in the local school, two reporters who are looking to advance their careers on this controversy, and the owner of the factory that was leaking.
The one truly stand out performance in this production is that of Brian Hemmingsen who portrayed Simon, the mayor of the town. With his boisterous voice and dominating personality he takes over the stage and you can envision him as the glad handing politician that is endearing to the populous, but at the same time the ruthless strategist behind the scenes. When he was on stage was when the show truly felt like it had good momentum.
As for the production itself, the best I can say is that as I was leaving I thought of how the Philostrate character in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” described the performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe” to Hippolyta and Theseus. It was both brief and tedious. The performance ran just over 1.5 hours in one act. In some respects it didn’t drag, but I also found myself checking my watch periodically. While there were moments that were quite engaging, particularly the interaction between the scientist and his mayor brother, there were parts that dragged. The relationship between the scientist’s daughter and one of the news reporters built to nothing. Unfortunately, there were too many of those moments amongst the other characters to truly recommend this production. For instance, one of the reporters was an idealist who throughout the play was looking to make a name for himself by taking down the mayor and factory for the pollution they were causing. Late in the show he is offered a check by the factory owner and the next time you see him he has changed his opinion and is now a supporter of the factory and the mayor. The idealist fell simply by the offer of a check and the internal struggle he must have gone through was never explored or seen on stage. He was merely bought off and it didn’t ring true to who that character was suppose to be.
The show ends with the scientist performing a monologue to the audience through the fourth wall, in essence lecturing the audience for not being more involved and more active and being responsible for crises like this in society. From the playbill it is apparent that the show was inspired by real events in modern day Israel. Perhaps this epilogue had a more poignant effect to the audiences in Israel where this show originated, but here it felt preachy and fell flat.