ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
At first glance, it would appear to be something whipped
up from today's headlines for a TV movie: Doctor exposes
pollution that's fouling the waters of a spa, threatening the
health of it's guests. Instead of receiving gratitude, he's
labeled a trouble making traitor by the fellow townspeople
(including his brother the mayor) who are getting rich from the
spa and want to sweep the problem under the rug.
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE is a multi-layered play that was actually written in 1881 by Norwegian poet and dramatist Henrik Ibsen and updated 40 years ago by Arthur Miller to reflect the rampant McCarthyism of the 1950s.
Ibsen based AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE on a newspaper story he had read in the 1800s but didn't write it with environmentalism in mind.
Jack O'Brien, artistic director of San Diego's Old Globe Theater, who directed this "American Playhouse" production for KCET, a Public Broadcasting Service station in Los Angeles, explains, "Everyone's saying that this is so terrifyingly relevant, but Ibsen wrote it more than a hundred years ago as a protest to the critics about the way his play GHOST had been received. It was his indictment of the press. Arthur did it in 1950. That is what's so interesting to me.
"In the '50s, the play was about mob control and not being able to stick by your guns and what that causes, meaning the standing up for your own word ultimately means standing alone. Now we're so much tied in to the shocking way that we've laid waste to this planet and how expedient those choices seem to be. We're seeing this play completely differently. So it has taken a hundred years for the play to have uncovered its own meaning."
Ibsen set his drama in the Scandinavia of his time. O'Brien prevailed upon Miller to Americanize it, so the village was transplanted to the Maine seacoast, circa 1885.
"I wanted to put a very specifically and strongly American spin on the piece," O'Brien says. "I begged Arthur to relocate it in this country because I felt that it would be distancing to an audience to see American actors speaking the cadence of Miller, which is so American, and acting like they're in Scandinavia. I think it would put the piece in a very phony position. He finally acquiesced, and it didn't seem as if it hadn't been written that way. It was very natural."
O'Brien had yet another priority, "I saw the necessity for having what I call a strongly ensemble feeling. I said, 'Look, I think we can get two top players for the two brothers, but I beg you to let me really fill the hopper with a lot of the extras I use down here (at San Diego Old Globe Theater) because they have worked together, off and on, over a long period of time and they have incredible sense of community.'
"I did that with the lesser players, but where it really paid off was in the mob scene because I called every Globe out-of-work actor in Los Angeles and said, 'You want to come in for two days, we'll have a helluva good time,' and they all came.
"Pound for pound, that's one of the most distinguished crowds I've ever seen in my life. Because these people know each other, they melded immediately into exactly what to do. God, it was fun."
Even the actors playing the two brothers, John Glover as the doctor and George Grizzard as the mayor, have strong Old Globe ties. Featured performers in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE who have appeared on the Globe stage include William Anton (Dr. Stockman), Richard Easton (Anderson), Byron Jennings (Hovstad), James Morrison (Captain Horster) and Robert Phalen (Drunk). In fact, Easton and Phalen are at the Globe now in AS YOU LIKE IT. Synopsized from review by Joe Stein for The San Diego Tribune
Interesting tidbit: This was made into a big-screen movie in 1977. The lead character of Dr. Thomas Stockmann was played by Steve McQueen.
This review and captured pictures is provided solely as a record of James Morrison's work as an actor, and does not intend or imply any infringement of any copyrights or trademark.