An Enemy of the People
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State Campus—One of the surprising things when you scan the realistic drama of the late 19th century is how often modern-seeming reformists take center stage. In the works of Anton Chekhov, that figure is usually an alcoholic doctor, lamenting the ignorance and backwardness of society and the destruction of the natural environment. This kind of proto-green character also appears in the work of Henrik Ibsen, perhaps most notably in An Enemy of the People, which is getting a one-night-only performance from the New York-based traveling educational troupe Aquila Theatre Company.
Ibsen's play, which premiered in 1882, concerns a town's investment in mineral baths that are intended as a tourist attraction. A conscientious scientist, however, discovers that the local tannery is discharging toxins that will poison the tourists. He brings this information to the town's leaders, expecting their gratitude and quick intervention. Ha-ha on him . . .
This play has been a model for the struggle of the individual conscience against the mob and was a popular choice for revival in later ages of intolerance. The N.C. State Center Stage Web site also helpfully points out the plot parallels to Steven Spielberg's Jaws. Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m. Aquila is also performing Shakespeare's As You Like It; that's on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24 and $28. Visit www.ncsu.edu/centerstage. —David Fellerath