The setting: a community with a popular water attraction. The conflict: There's something dangerous lurking in the water. One man knows the truth, but vested interests warn that panic can be expensive. No, I'm not talking about Steven Spielberg's famous shark flick. Nor am I referring to some future Michael Moore documentary about public utilities in Flint, Michigan. Henrik Ibsen's 1882 play, An Enemy of the People, may not be as well-known (or action-packed) as Jaws, but it tells the kind of political horror story modern audiences will immediately recognize.
An Enemy of the People, as adapted by Death of a Salesman playwright Arthur Miller, arrives in Memphis courtesy of regional veteran Marler Stone and his newly christened CentreStage Theatre company. It tells the story of Dr. Stockmann, who discovers that his town's public bath is badly contaminated. He's initially thanked for his vigilance but ultimately opposed by the very people he sought to protect. Over the course of the play, Stockmann discovers just how hard it can be to stand alone, especially when the truth is unpopular.
At 78, Stone shows few signs of slowing his artistic output. "There are a lot of plays I want to do," he says, rattling off a list of classic shows ranging from Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge to the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. "I want to do things that are relevant," he says.
Stone marvels that An Enemy of the People was admired both by Miller, a lion of the literary left, and by objectivist icon Ayn Rand. "I wondered why," he says.