Two very different civic-minded plays shed light on our societal woes. Both of them are more than slightly cynical about democracy and its discontents.
|Boyd Gaines as Dr. Thomas Stockmann and Richard Thomas as his brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann in “An Enemy of the People.” Photo by Joan Marcus.|
|Nitya Vidyasagar as Yalda with Steven Boyer as Jerome Photo by Joan Marcus.|
|William Jackson Harper as Qala with Utkarsh Ambudkar as Rahim
Photo by Joan Marcus from “Modern Terrorism.”
While there is a clarity of vision and even some compassion in “Modern Terrorism,” “An Enemy of the People” lacks a compelling narrative.
There is no subtlety in this “An Enemy of the People.” It’s all silk-hatted villainy
Lenkiewicz’s adaptation. Mayor Peter Stockmann (Richard Thomas) has a perrenial smirk that stands in for mustache-twirling. The noise of its screaming is not the only thing that condenms “An Enemy of the People.”
Producing this modernized version of Ibsen’s play seeks to capitalize on the political silly season. Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Boyd Gaines) is at odds with his brother the Mayor. His desire to save the town in which he was born is overwhelmed by a cynicism. He calls liberals and populists, those who rule and the majority who allow themselves to be ruled to the carpet. If the honest man is alone, as Dr. Stockmann seems to think, is democracy also on the carpet?
|Photo by Erin Baiano. Karen Pittman, Erik Jensen, Heidi Armbruster and Aasif Mandvi in “Disgraced.”|
Unfortunately, even the usually superb Boyd Gaines is swallowed up in the noise and fury of
“An Enemy of the People.” The stand out in the cast is Gerry Bamman as the printer, Aslaksen, whose bourgeois interests overwhelm his sense of right.
In “Modern Terrorism,” the geo-political is seriously funny and darkly sad. The small cast are all excellent. Stephen Boyer’s slacker Jerome, William Jackson Harper as Qala, the self-important leader are both wonderfully played. Utkarsh Ambudkar gives us a complicated and sweet Rahim. Nitya Vidyasagarplays Yalda as a young modern woman, whose disappointments fuel her anger.
Sometimes ethnic history is a minefield, and in “Disgraced,” a new play by Ayad Akhtar, at LCT3’s Claire Tow Theater extended through December 2nd, the sensitive and even touchy matters of identity are explored in serious and unexpected ways.
Amir (Aasif Mandvi) and Emily (Heidi Armbruster) are a happy and prosperous couple. He is a forceful and intelligent corporate attorney. He is uncomfortable with the fact that she paints intricate and delicate works based in the Islamic tradition. In fact, Amir is uncomfortable with Islam. He is an apostate, bent on maintaining his place in the white man’s world. His nephew, Abe (Omar Maskati.) a devout follower of the Muslim faith, is the sole reminder of his past. By distancing himself from his traditions and family history, Amir has gone adrift and become disaffected. Is there a tribal identity that will out no matter who we try to become?
“Disgraced” traverses the divide in understanding in a compelling and smart script. Its a well-wrought study of the complications that befall family and friendship.
For more information about MTC’s “An Enemy of the People,” please visit http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/.