The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday July 1st


An Enemy of the People leaves audience awestruck

PlayMaker's "An Enemy of the People"

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

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PRC's official opening of "An Enemy of the People" elicited laughs, gasps and an overall awestruck reaction from the audience as talented actors and elaborate stagecraft brought the classic drama to life.

"An Enemy of the People" revolves around Dr. Stockmann and his family who all face terrible repercussions as he tries to expose an unwelcome truth about their community — all in the face of manipulative news media and politicians, some of which are his own family members. As the story progresses and Dr. Stockmann’s family find themselves in harm’s way as a result of his actions, and the audience is forced to ask themselves how far they would go in his shoes.

The play’s themes touch on the power of language, questioning authority, the comfort of the status quo and the power of majority — all of which are masterfully portrayed by the talented artists involved.

Although a dark story overall, "An Enemy of the People" is not without humorous moments. Morton Kiil’s (David Adamson) cantankerous nature drew laughs from the crowd from the very beginning. Mayor Peter Stockmann (Anthony Newfield) offered an unexpected route of comic relief despite his character’s grim, almost evil, nature. 

All characters in the production shined and offered the most authentic of performances, especially French's portrayal of Dr. Stockmann, whose passion toward his cause could not have seemed more genuine.

The two characters stationed in the audience added an inclusive element to the overall production, making all watching feel like they themselves were citizens, attending the mass meeting called by Dr. Stockmann. As the two audience-based actors shouted out votes in favor of Dr. Stockmann, a regular audience member joined in with a hearty “Yeah!”, becoming an unexpected voter at the town meeting.

Even beyond the phenomenal acting, the brilliant staging and lighting of the production brought the play to a heightened level. The falling rainwater and thunderstorm effects drew in components of water, a central issue to the play, and represented the figurative storm that was brewing in the town itself. 

Additionally, the way the Stockmann household set moved back to reveal the newspaper office in act one and the meeting platform in act two offered impressive visuals for the audience.

Act one began in the homey, cheery environment of the Stockmann household, where audience members could feel the laughter and happiness as Dr. and Mrs. Stockmann danced around the living room. When Dr. Stockmann sat down to puff his cigar, the hazy smoke drifting around the stage heightened the lifelike effect as well as induced some coughs from the audience.

In act two, the drama, emotion and action of the play truly heated up. The use of slow-motion movements, a high pitched ringing noise and altered lighting as Aslaksen raised his gavel to signify the beginning of the meeting clued the audience that something important was about to happen. Throughout the rest of that scene as the riot broke out, this use of slow-motion and altered lighting technique was used tastefully as a means of showing news-worthy photographic moments. 

This incredible effect slowed down the heightened intensity of the scene, while allowing audience members to examine the action and emotion of the players very closely. Following the meeting, the citizens stormed the Stockmann household in a riveting and horrifying scene in which the entire set was destroyed.

The play’s final scene, during which water flooded down, hazy smoke filled the stage, an angry mob sounded in the background and strobe lights flickered over the Stockmann family, portrayed the true sense of terror and danger the family faced on Dr. Stockmann’s quest for the truth. The drama and emotional escalation of this finale left audience members open-mouthed and wide-eyed as the powerful performance came to its close.


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