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Jeremy Strong and Michael Imperioli do brotherly battle in “An Enemy of the People”

Read our review of the Broadway drama.

Time is a flat circle. For proof, look no further than An Enemy of The People. The story was originally written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen back in 1882, and centers around a man of science who has proof that local contaminated bath water will cause illness and even death. However, the seemingly simple solution of shutting down the baths — built at great expense and meant to lure valuable tourist dollars — becomes not so simple when matched up against the political and financial interests of those with the most to lose.

First staged over 140 years ago, Ibsen’s play feels eerily prescient when performed here and now on Broadway, in an era where truth is constantly discarded for “alternative facts” and more conveniently advantageous narratives. In the hands of writer Amy Herzog, director Sam Gold, and a committed cast, it also is a striking portrait of oppositional forces both strategically manipulative and stunningly violent.

<p>Emilio Madrid</p> Jeremy Strong in 'An Enemy of the People'

Emilio Madrid

Jeremy Strong in 'An Enemy of the People'

Succession’s Jeremy Strong stars as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a man of high moral character and low political savvy. When his suspicions that the recently constructed spa resort baths are contaminated with bacteria are confirmed (“a buffet of poison”), he believes he has saved the town by preventing illness and death before the big upcoming summer season. Huzzah! But standing in the way of the news being made public is the mayor of the town, who also happens to be Thomas’ brother, Peter (Michael Imperioli).

What unfolds is a game of political cat and mouse between the siblings, which Thomas is ill-equipped to win. Strong is captivating as the steadfast yet hopelessly naïve do-gooder, completely immersing himself so much in the role that he even stayed completely in character to the point that he vocally agreed with climate protestors who interrupted the performance I saw. Meanwhile, Imperioli is effortlessly smooth as a pragmatic politician who knows exactly how to play a room and change minds in the process — all minds, except one.

<p>Emilio Madrid</p> Michael Imperioli in 'An Enemy of the People'

Emilio Madrid

Michael Imperioli in 'An Enemy of the People'

The scenes between brothers are equal parts intimate and intense — that intimacy and intensity amplified thanks to the round seating configuration of Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre. The first few rows of seats are practically right on top of the rectangular performance space — and at one point after what is described as a “pause” in the production where a bar magically appears on stage and theatergoers are welcomed down for a free drink, some are even invited to stay there for a pivotal scene.

The staging by Gold (with scenic design by Dots and lighting by Isabella Byrd) serves to make the audience feel as if they are guests in the doctor’s home and have inadvertently stumbled into the middle of a contentious family face-off, complete with impassioned spray flying out of the mouths of the two actors as they debate what truly is best for the future of their town.

<p>Emilio Madrid</p> Victoria Pedretti, Caleb Eberhardt, and Jeremy Strong in 'An Enemy of the People'

Emilio Madrid

Victoria Pedretti, Caleb Eberhardt, and Jeremy Strong in 'An Enemy of the People'

Enemy is filled with winning performances from the rest of the cast, including Victoria Pedretti (The Haunting series on Netflix) as Thomas’ self-confident daughter Petra, Thomas Jay Ryan as flip-flopping face of moderation Aslaksen, and Matthew August Jeffers (The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live) as showy progressive Hovstad, who may not be so progressive after all. All are forced to take sides, with the war of words eventually escalating to a shockingly physical confrontation.

No doubt fans of Succession, The Sopranos, and The White Lotus will be flocking to the Circle in the Square to see Strong and Imperioli do their thing in such close quarters. And they will not be disappointed. The actors are tremendous and completely lose themselves in the parts. But as audiences file out of the theater, they may also find themselves confronting some much thornier issues — issues that 140 years and thousands of miles have not dulled in the least. A–

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