Theater & Dance
"An Enemy of the People"

By: Henrik Ibsen
Produced by: The Pear Theatre
Directed by: Betsy Kruse Craig
Featuring: Mohana Rajagopal, Matt Brown, Richard Holman, Bryan Moriarty, Ron Talbot, Michael Kruse Craig, Hanna Mary Keller, John Musgrave, Jerry Hitchcock, Mihaela Robbs
Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
When: October 20 through November 12, 2017
Where: The Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View
Tickets: $15-$35. Visit or call 650-254-1148.

Talbot, Holman
Michael Craig / Pear Theatre
Ron Talbot as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, left, and Richard Holman as Mayor Peter Stockmann in "An Enemy of the People" at The Pear Theatre, October 20 through November 12, 2017.
A ride on Ibsen's time machine
to 'An Enemy of the People'
Greed over common good, foolish electorate
are deep themes in prescient 1882 play
October 21, 2017

Henrik Ibsen offers two main themes in his 1882 play, "An Enemy of the People":

— People are willing to poison themselves and others for the sake of a chance at economic prosperity; and

— Most people are too stupid to govern themselves.

It's like Ibsen had a time machine and came to the United States in 2016, saw what happened in Flint, Michigan; and saw the people give power to a political party that was clear in its plans to take money away from the middle class and give it to the richest of the rich; and elect as president a sociopathic boor who lied to them every day.

In "An Enemy of the People," an educated man, a doctor, gets the idea that the waters of his town's baths are poisoned. He sends some samples off to a university for analysis and his theory is confirmed. He writes up a big report (with a lot of exclamation points!) and intends to publish it in the local newspaper.

The water pipes are contaminated by poisons from nearby tanneries, and need to be replaced. At first, the local newspaper editor and printer are behind him, but their support evaporates with cowardice once the mayor — the doctor's brother — objects to the publication.

The doctor who should have been regaled as a hero is instead denounced as "An Enemy of the People" by the editor, at a raucous town meeting. He and his family are evicted and fired from their jobs, and are saved only by a ship captain who agrees to let them live in his often empty home.

One hundred and thirty-five years later, it's still a powerful work, and perhaps more relevant than ever.

The production of Rebecca Lenkiewicz's adaptation of the play opened on Friday, October 20,2017, at The Pear Theatre in Mountain View has many worthwhile elements, although it really wasn't ready on opening night.

This production has had a challenging history. The original director, Ray Renati, had to leave the production for medical reasons a couple of weeks into rehearsal. And then the title role of Dr. Thomas Stockmann had to be recast.

Pear Artistic Director Betsy Kruse Craig stepped in to direct, bringing considerable chops, and the very capable Ron Talbot came aboard as Dr. Stockmann.

But it takes time for any cast to meld, to get all the timing right, to fuse as an organic whole.

That hadn't happened by opening night. There were a few excellent performances that rose above the whole, but there was still a lot of bad timing with dialogue, and this play is very heavy with dialogue.

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It is likely all the rough edges will be sanded down very soon, and the play will flow better.

Talbot, who has to deliver approximately four bazillion lines of dialogue, was pretty rough in the first act, although he delivered with firebrand power in Act II.

Someday, someone will decide to do a biopic about Dan Aykroyd, and when they do, the guy to call to play that role should be Bryan Moriarty, who looks and delivers lines much like a young Aykroyd, He has a fine turn here as Hovstad, the conniving, weasel-like newspaper editor. He's a glad-hander in the beginning and calls himself a social rebel, but sells out the doctor immediately when the mayor commands it.

Richard Holman is hissable and overbearing as the mayor, very self-righteous in his willingness to poison the people; the nastiest older brother imaginable.

Maybe the strongest performance comes from a very limited-in-lines role, John Musgrave as Morten Kiil, grandfather to the doctor's children, and owner of the worst of the polluting tanneries. Musgrave brings real power to the old man's condemnation of the doctor's efforts.

Hannah Mary Keller was appealing as the doctor's daughter Petra, and had real stage charisma. She sometimes didn't quite fit with the organic whole, but again, this is a production that needed more time.

The big town hall meeting, wherein the good doctor is denounced by the rotten newspaper editor and the mayor, was a lot of fun, with some actors up in the audience and basically giving us the feeling we'd been invaded by crazy people. Much fun was Jerry Hitchcock as a drunk, who had to be thrown out several times.

The scenic design, by Norm Beamer, wasn't much to write home about, but the costume design, by Kathleen Qiu, was the goods. Beautiful gowns and suits that matched the time very well.

Email John Orr at

Rajagopal, Musgrave, Talbot
Michael Craig / Pear Theatre
Mohana Rajagopal as Katherine Stockmann, John Musgrave as Morten Kiil, and Ron Talbot as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, from left, in "An Enemy of the People" at The Pear Theatre, October 20 through November 12, 2017.
Rajagopal, Keller, Holman
Michael Craig / Pear Theatre
Mohana Rajagopal as Katherine Stockmann, Hannah Mary Keller as daughter Petra Stockmann, and Richard Holman as Mayor Peter Stockmann, from left, in "An Enemy of the People" at The Pear Theatre, October 20 through November 12, 2017.