Although the play is set in the late 1800s, it could be happening right now. An idealistic doctor discovers that the water in the local spa is polluted and will make people sick. He thinks it's important to tell everyone and get this fixed right away. But the spa is the economic engine of this small town, and not everyone wants this information to get out. See what I mean? Very timely story, yet it was written more than 100 years ago!
Boyd Gaines is excellent as the doctor. He has some very long monologues and he holds you right in his hand--you want to listen to every word. Richard Thomas (yes, John-Boy) plays his adversary, the mayor, who is also the doctor's brother. These two leads are perfect together, both strong actors who work together beautifully. The supporting cast is good, too, especially the newspaper editor who must decide if he will publish the doctor's report.
Ibsen's characters tend to be uptight, buttoned-up people supressing their emotions. In this play, the characters are emotional--joyous, angry, excited. The costumes are from the time in which the play is set, but it's a new translation. In places, a modern turn of phrase felt out of place, but it didn't detract from the story (I'm picky about language).
Manhattan Theatre Club is a subscription theatre, and this is a limited run--although they'd do well to move it to another theater when its run here is done. This play will get you talking about issues and ideals and practicality. Is the truth all that matters?
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