And what did you do during the pandemic, Tony Estrella?
The talented artistic director of Warwick’s Gamm Theatre rewrote Henrik Ibsen’s classic “An Enemy of the People” with some help from many of his actor friends, assembled a cast of over a dozen and a half, and directed them in the stunning play that resulted, called “A Lie Agreed Upon.”
In the play, history repeats itself over 200 years later, raising some of the same moral issues that Ibsen dealt with back in the late 1800s.
The time is the present, or not too distant past. The town is Springfield, well known for its Springfield Baths.
The mayor and the local newspaper, ironically called the Springfield Messenger, are promoting tourism and economic development.
The mayor’s brother, Dr. Thomas Stockman, the town’s chief medical officer, has commissioned a study of the water system, only to discover that the water is unfit for human consumption and exterior contact.
What to do? Solutions will take years and more money than the town can afford.
Does money make the facts irrelevant, as the mayor puts it? Do we have a science versus politics situation?
Does that remind us of where we are right here and now?
The original play, and Estrella’s updated perspective, deals with the age-old questions of corporate responsibility, political influence, power to the people and power of the press, and just plain old right and wrong.
Dr. Stockman, once thought of as a hero, suddenly becomes “the enemy of the people.”
The second act opens with a rowdy crowd, including a drunk (Jason Quinn) to provide a bit of comic relief, booing Dr. Stockman from the podium and being swayed by the persuasive mayor.
The play is made up of five scenes, with the effective closing one titled “No Other Choice.”
“A Lie Agreed Upon” is tough, in-your-face theater. It is as relevant today as it was in the 1800s, even more so.
The issues are never clearly solved and the questions still remain as you leave the theatre after the shocking final scene.
Estrella has enlisted fellow actor Fred Sullivan Jr. to play the pivotal role of Mr. Aslaksen, and Fred is in his usual good form. Jonathan Higginbotham is a mean political machine in the role of the mayor. It is his second role at Gamm, after appearing with many Shakespearean companies.
Sean McConaghy captures the stage as Dr. Stockman, ranting and raving over his situation, using every ounce of his energy to portray a committed, angry man who knows that he is right. It is interesting that he previously played the small role of the drunk in Gamm’s version of the original “The Enemy of the People.”
Also present are a number of actors, many members of Actors Equity, not seen previously at Gamm.
“A Lie Agreed Upon” is must-see theater. It is at Gamm through Oct. 24. Masks and proof of vaccination are required. Get your tickets at www.gammtheatre.org.