First Stage Provides A Stunning: An Enemy Of The People!

Besides the boisterous and invigorating musicals that they present for children of all ages, by children of all ages, at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, First Stage also features their Young Company, young actors of high school age, in their black box theater in the round at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. The Young Company is ambitious and tackles mature adult plays usually without adult actors involved…and for me…the results are always delicious.

First Stage Young Company Cast in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And this time they have taken on Henry Miller’s adaptation of the Ibsen classic, An Enemy Of The People. Although set in late 19th Century Norway, the story has resonance today. After being away for a short time, Dr. Thomas Stockmann returns home and becomes the medical officer at the newly created medicinal baths that will bring fame and economic growth to his small town. His brother, Peter Stockmann is the town’s mayor and head of the committee running the baths. Thomas does a bit of research and discovers that a series of mysterious illnesses that have been inflicting visitors to the baths is the result of pollution and bacteria in the water that are coming from a tannery up the mountain. He is convinced that once he shares his discovery with the town, that they will stand firmly behind him and fix the issue. But he’s being incredibly naive here. Instead, Peter takes up the opposition and through a series of partial lies, innuendo, and subterfuge, undermines Thomas and it doesn’t end well for the doctor or his family.

John Eash-Scott (Center), and cast in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is played by John Eash-Scott with an incredible amount of vigor and determination. Totally sure of himself and totally sure of his position, he forges on in his determination to expose the issues around the baths. And as he rounds up support from the local press and small business men, he becomes ever more sure of himself…and Eash-Scott clearly brings that to life on the stage. And even as his brother starts to bring doubt into his mind, he doubles down, and Eash-Scott brings that all to bouncing life.

William Kastner (Left) and John Eash-Scott in AN ENEMY OF THE
PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

There is certainly a small amount of sibling rivalry here and despite his important position in the town, William Kastner as Mayor Peter Stockmann, makes that plain to see. And it also comes into play as he tries to dissuade he brother from publishing his claims of pollution…is it real civic duty or a bit of envy? And when the brutal bits of open conflict begin, Kastner ramps up Peter’s position of power and clearly becomes the pompous ass that the role requires.

And then there is the press that initially support Dr. Stockmann, but go all in against him when the mayor turns on the heat. Chief among them is editor Hovstad, Elena Marking, who presents the enthusiasm of every young editor about to have the big scoop as they prepare to publish Dr. Stockmann’s report…until they are confronted by Mayor Stockmann, and Marking gives us the unflinching portrayal of the wishy washy turncoat with no feeling or compunction about what is being done. And Hovstad’s change in position is one of the most damaging for Dr. Stockmann, both publicly and personally. And similarly situated is Aslaksen, a town small business leader and publisher of Hovstad’s paper. Madison Jones gives us the properly slippery and slimy turncoat too!

Madison Jones in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024. Photo
by Paul Ruffolo.

One of the side issues revolves around the doctor’s family…as he pushes on with his quest…he loses sight of how it will affect them all. His wife Catherine is aware of what may happen and voices her fears quite clearly. Maya Thomure plays Catherine and easily moves from the happy and carefree hostess and matriarch, to the concerned and warning helpmate. Her daughter, Petra, is an adult and teacher in the local school and Reiley Fitzsimmons gives us an assured and determined young teacher who is willing to support her father and take up his cause against the town.

John Eash-Scott in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. First Stage, 2024.
Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

The First Stage Young Company’s An Enemy Of The People runs through April 28, 2024 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. The play runs for two hours plus intermission and is recommended for teens and adults. For more information and to order tickets, click here.

AND, as always, extra credit reading: The Playbill!! and The Enrichment Guide!

This is a Young Company Performance Project — an
actor-driven presentation using elemental production
values. By stripping down to a nearly bare stage, the
connection of actor to audience is enhanced, and
the words of the play come alive in exciting ways,
allowing our award-winning students to showcase
their graduate level skills with full length material,
from Shakespeare to American classics to pieces
commissioned specially for them.

Brinn Hill
Interim Education Director