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Paragon Springs

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PARAGON SPRINGS, TimeLine Theatre Company. Steven Dietz's transplant of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People from Norway in 1882 to the midwest in 1926 has a couple of interesting points to make--the play is more compelling than, say, Drowning Crow, Regina Taylor's arid, pointless reworking of The Seagull. But ultimately Dietz adds little that's new to this drama about a public health official in a spa town whose exposure of pathogens in its "healing" waters turns the community upside down and against the good doctor.

Ibsen did it well enough the first time that Dr. Stockman's larger points--most famously his "the majority is always wrong" speech--still resonate. But one wonders why Dietz didn't go all the way and set the play in contemporary America, where the mass media echo chamber is now as pernicious as the bacteria in the town's springs. Dietz does attempt to explore the rise of radio in manipulating public opinion. But his fledgling radio station acts only as a framing device and as an excuse to rattle off factoids like Babe Ruth's batting average.

William Brown's direction is solid but not terribly inspired, and his blocking is handicapped by a distracting array of dead trees in Brian Sidney Bembridge's otherwise cleanly designed set. Paul Noble's performance as Stockman lacks the roguish charm necessary to offset the character's self-righteous priggishness.

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