An Enemy of the People | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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An Enemy of the People

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An Enemy of the People, Keyhole Players, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Keyhole Players artistic director Frank Merle offers a sleek new translation of Henrik Ibsen's 1882 drama, a perennial favorite among English teachers for its simple theme: a doctor faces ostracism when he discovers that his town's leading tourist attraction, a hot spring, is polluted. Merle accentuates the strongest features of the script--its well-wrought plot and fascinating, fully fleshed-out characters.

Unfortunately Jeff Schlegel-milch's clumsy staging easily overwhelms these strengths. When this taut little drama--about an hour and 45 minutes, including intermission--is filled with inexperienced actors who at times seem woefully underrehearsed, it seems to take forever. Only Melissa Riemer and Cheryl Markowitz as the doctor's wife and daughter really inhabit their roles. All the male leads perform with a soporific stiffness that makes everything they say and do utterly uninteresting.

The subpar acting is matched by Merle's functional but graceless set design. The studio at the Athenaeum is hardly flexible or luxurious, but that's no excuse for a production that seems the work of a high school drama club.

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