TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Enemy of the People” & “Through the Yellow Hour”
Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, we have two shows that comment on current political realities from opposite ends of the time/space continuum…
A new adaptation of the Ibsen classic steps up onto the Broadway soapbox when the political turns very personal for a small town doctor who reveals that his community’s livelihood is derived from polluted water.
“…high-intensity, high-volume production… Looking beyond the sometimes creaking dramaturgy, it is startling to discover how current the play’s ideas can feel.” New York Times
“…this trimmed-down adaptation moves just as fast, thanks to a new, punchy translation by the British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz.” New York Post
“Purists may flinch at Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s bare-bones adaptation… But when Boyd Gaines and Richard Thomas square off for the Cain-and-Abel power play between brothers, we could be on the hustings.” Variety
“…Henrik Ibsen’s spitting-mad screed against political hypocrisy among polite small-towners, tackles more hot-button election-year issues than an average hour of MSNBC.” Entertainment Weekly
Mizer’s Two Cents: This is not your grandfather’s Ibsen. The original five act play has been distilled down to a very brisk production involving two acts/two hours. With this serious trim, you gain a headlong momentum; you lose, perhaps, a depth of motivation for the characters. As the man of principle suddenly under siege, a very entertaining Boyd Gaines makes bold acting choices, at first frisky and then ferocious, to match the careening adaptation. See this solid (if not definitive) revival for his performance, the enjoyable character actors giving brush stroke performances around him and, particularly, for the shockingly prescient dialogue about the “tyranny of the majority”. You will leave the theater talking…and checking your voter registration card.
Boundary-pushing playwright Adam Rapp returns to Off-Broadway with a future New York City under siege, as seen from through the eyes of one survivor holed up in a bombed-out East Village apartment.
“But while this prolific dramatist…has a fertile and energetic imagination, it is seldom original.” New York Times
“Amazingly, it’s possible to make a story about a bombed-out New York overrun by militant Muslims seem tedious.” New York Post
“Playwright Adam Rapp loves a good apocalypse, and has invented another interesting one for his surreal, darkly funny new play…” Huffington Post
“Running 100 minutes, the play moves briskly enough, succeeds in creating an atmospheric world and is moderately engrossing.” New York Daily News
Mizer’s Two Cents: With all the possibilities for dystopian pyrotechnics, this trip into Children of Men territory is a slow burn (and loses gas in a final third that attempts to explain what is going on) but maintains a fascinating mood of dread for a good portion thanks to the stylish design, the strong direction (from the playwright) and committed performances from the actors. More than the gunplay or sci-fi trappings or copious full-frontal nudity, I found myself most engaged when the play simply looked intimately at people quietly trying to survive an extreme situation — and each other. See it if you like seeing if theater can grapple with an unusual genre, are a Rapp completist or want to see some noteworthy downtown actors at work.