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Public Enemy

From 16 critic and 69 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent

About the show

The Pearl Theatre Co. presents a punchy and raw adaptation of Ibsen’s 'An Enemy of the People' from the playwright behind Broadway’s 'Blackbird,' David Harrower.  More…

When Dr. Stockmann finds that the town’s tourist-friendly baths contain lethal levels of toxins, he sets out to clear the air and quickly finds his friends and neighbors poisoned against him. Ibsen's iconic parable tackles the collision of truth and politics in the public sphere.


“David Harrower’s new streamlined version of Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People’ retitled ‘Public Enemy’ is rousingly taut and tense. Performed in modern dress, the Ibsen original has been updated in language so that it has a believably modern feel. While Ibsen’s 1882 drama dealt with ecology and economics, Harrower’s version is much more pointedly political. Hal Brooks’ exciting intermission-less production makes this a timely drama in the current election season.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Eerily timely and shatteringly relevant, it is a must-see for the establishment. It deals with truth and the price truth-tellers pay, a concern throughout recorded history...The cast of 'Public Enemy' is superb, as we’ve come to expect from The Pearl, and Hal Brooks’ direction is spot-on. Jimonn Cole gives a heroic performance as Dr. Stockmann, one every acting aficionado will want to see." Full Review

Off Off Online

"An eloquent tale of justice and ambition…Director Hal Brooks has confirmed the company’s commitment to showcasing incisive, relevant classical theater with Harrower’s masterly take...There is an unending tension between the authority and the reformist in Brooks’s conception. Within this tension is a complexity difficult to explore on stage: the variable nature of truth…A precise, magnetic production of Ibsen’s timely play." Full Review

The New York Times

"Harrower retitled it 'Public Enemy,' spruced up the translation and shaved the five acts to a 90-minute sprint—which the Pearl Theater is now presenting in a satisfyingly sturdy staging...Hal Brooks’s modern-dress production does well by the story...Mr. Cole fully comes into his own as Stockmann turns his last stand into a grandstand about the 'majority getting what it wants'...In this society, you can be corrupt or you can be a zealot. What bleak options this thought-provoking show offers." Full Review

Epoch Times

"That the play does not dissolve into simply a fable of generalities is a tribute to both Ibsen and Harrower...Potent questions are posed. Can one live a life without compromise? Do hypocrisy and deceit rule the world? These questions appear to be universal and ongoing...Under Hal Brooks’s attentive direction the actors perform well, with Nilaja Sun, John Keating, and Arielle Goldman being standouts." Full Review

Edge New York

"More essential than ever...In the beginning, 'Public Enemy' seems to present itself as a clear-cut morality play...It gets interesting when it reveals its true colors as a play that does not directly deal in the dull, predictability of moral and political absolutes but instead in the contradictions inherent in any matters attached to human ego...The actors hit their stride and present the most interesting performances as their characters start to reveal their aims, interests, and initiatives." Full Review

New York Theatre Review

"There is a pulsing heart at the center of Hal Brooks' production of 'Public Enemy' in the role of Dr. Theo Stockman as embodied by the wonderful Jimonn Cole in a performance that is impassioned, thoughtful, raw, appropriately livid and ultimately very compelling in an otherwise straightforward and occasional murky production...The production captures the essence of an Ibsen play, the rage, the conscious, the soul of theatre telling us we must listen." Full Review


"'Public Enemy' is certainly super timely...Harrower did more than wrestle the five-act play down to a 90-minute single act...He altered Ibsen's text so that Stockmann's targets go beyond the town's politicians to include the whole consumer society and our apathetic selves. Harrower's head-to-toe, slimmed-down text sticks to the essential story...The problem here is that the performances all around are more okay than outstanding." Full Review


"An appreciative but occasionally uneven mounting...Harrower’s adaptation cuts away at the vintage verbiage of the original script, and Brooks’ well-paced staging has the show clocking in at about 90 minutes with no intermission. At the same time, though, this tighter writing seems to reveal somewhat uncomfortably the schematics of Ibsen’s plotting, and a mixed bag of performances among the 11-person cast sometimes lends the proceedings the flavor of old-fashioned melodrama." Full Review

Philadelphia Inquirer

"David Harrower has revised Ibsen’s text and given us a short, punchy ninety-minute version, now in an engrossing production...Hal Brooks’ direction brings up the houselights and has Stockmann accuse the audience, turning the play into a faux political rally. It strikes me that Harrower has streamlined the play but not dramatized it...The interpretation careens from noble whistleblower to egotistical demagogue, leaving me wondering if there’s anybody worth rooting for." Full Review

Plays to See

"The center of the play remains as strong and elementally compelling as ever. This Stockmann, though, played by Jimonn Cole, strikes an outraged tone quite soon, truncating the scope of psychological development possible. A kind of unfortunate emotional monotony sets in...For those who don’t know 'An Enemy of the People,' 'Public Enemy' is well worth seeing, even while Harrower’s modernization prunes from the original some tension and finesse." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Harrower's version, which eliminates some minor characters, streamlines the text, moving so fast that the characters are all but reduced to puppets, striking new attitudes every few minutes...This production is probably good enough to introduce the inexperienced to 'An Enemy of the People,' but we have seen better treatments of this script in recent memory. In the end, it tries too hard to place the action in the modern-day world of official spin, denial, and prevarication." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"Harrower has fashioned a taut 90-minute intermission-less version of Ibsen’s Norwegian original...The acting in this production is disappointing—lackluster and a bit stilted. Brooks has attempted to add some excitement to key scenes by adding ominous music cues and/or bathing the stage in red light. But it’s the unnerving complexity of Ibsen’s and Harrower’s writing that dominates the proceedings and makes the show worth seeing, not the performances or the stage trappings." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"The Pearl could not have picked a better time to give us 'Public Enemy'...Although this is an adaptation, it isn’t far from what’s written in 'An Enemy of the People.' Trump-mania is not specific to this year...Keating as Aslasken is a cheeky scene stealer. I was laughing hysterically every time this quirky character crept onstage...A majority of 'Public Enemy,' however, doesn’t live up to its climax...Unfortunately, the transitions are sometimes the most interesting thing happening onstage." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

The essential issues remain in place but everything has been brought to the level of agitprop melodrama. Whatever its value in reducing the play’s themes to a high-school civics class lesson, Harrower’s adapting the play to a present-day context simply doesn’t work. It’s not credible for Kiil, for example, to be so ignorant of the fact that bacteria can’t be seen by the naked eye and use that as an excuse to dismiss Stockmann’s claims. Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Harrower’s 90-minute cutbacks are not well done. The 2012 version, though longer, was much clearer and the speech in the Town Hall was riveting. Here it just seemed anti-climatic and almost tongue-in-cheek. Much of this might have to do with Cole’s portrayal or Hal Brooks' direction. Cole's characterization was much more about self than about the righteousness of it all." Full Review

Great acting, Masterful, Relevant, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if All Henrik Ibsen fans & those who like stories of idealism, morality/ethics ,& societal issues and right vs wrong. Resonates with today.

Don't see it if Not for those who seek frivolous light entertainment.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Must see, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if From the start of the play...kept you thinking ....superb acting especially the lead actor....

Don't see it if Not into a heavy play

Absorbing, Clever, Great writing, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if you think the original is talky and undramatic, this witty update is vivid and stimulating. A revelatory central performance.

Don't see it if You want mindless entertainment. Otherwise, any serious theatergoer shouldn't miss it.

Intense, Relevant, Great acting, Riveting, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a riveting, updated version of an Ibsen classic. Its timeless themes are still relevant and cannot fail to move you.

Don't see it if you want light entertainment or don't like to see updated adaptations of classic plays

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

See it if Excellent translation and brilliantly acted . absorbing drama relating to today's political climate. A must see.

Don't see it if If you only enjoy light musicals.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You Are an Ibsen fan and like plays with only dialogue and little action. How much will you give up to defend your beliefs of what is right?

Don't see it if You like action. You fall asleep during long monologues. Your mind is made up and cannot be changed.

Also This has been adapted from an Ibsen play into a 90 minute version.... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You want to experience a stand out performance by the actor who plays the doctor. This modern adaptation of the Ibsen play is very well done

Don't see it if You like light entertainment or reminders of how little things change when it comes to politics

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if are an ibsen fan and will find this 90 minutes of fast paced drama so riveting.

Don't see it if not into political drama or great dialogue.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to hear about an issue that is relevant. You want to see powerful acting. You want to see someone who is passionate about a cause

Don't see it if You want light and fluffy. You don't want to hear about people in office hiding the truth about contaminants in the water.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Masterful

See it if You want to see a thoughtful work that is as relevant today as when it was written. Brilliant 90 minute adaptation of Ibsen's long original.

Don't see it if You just like comedies and musicals and don't like serious plays that make you think.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you like Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, political plays, thoughtful and timely material that feels very relevant.

Don't see it if You're in the mood for something light and fluffy, or a musical. This is a play with some humor, but it's mostly serious.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if you are a fan of Isben. It holds up today with the political turmoil. Very poignant and provocative. Great news the run has been extended.

Don't see it if stylized older plays are not your fare. Don't like when they modernize or update classics works.

Resonant, Great writing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if you love straight plays, enjoy relatively traditional updates of classic plays, love Ibsen, enjoy thought provoking plays.

Don't see it if you hate straight plays, classic plays, or Ibsen. Don't like modern dress productions of classics or color/gender blind casting.

Also Nilaja Sun's interpretation of Mrs. Stockman was one of the best I've ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Dizzying, Intense, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if you'd like a modern adaptation that condenses the action without sacrificing the spirit with a great performance from the lead actor.

Don't see it if you like your Ibsen traditional, are not a fan of speed plotting that combines actions in a whirlwind, don't like its modern resonances

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intense

See it if You enjoy good ensemble work and appreciate Ibsen's themes

Don't see it if you find the depiction of single minded dedication and political corruption presented without the hope of compromise as too disturbing

Great writing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if exceptional adaptation/writing! Completely accessible and relatable. Passionately though-provoking. Great actors.

Don't see it if intense, passionate discussion breaking the 4th wall make you uncomfortable. Also common place human moral frailty & greed.

Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy a classic play that has been updated for our time.

Don't see it if You are an Ibsen purist and find tampering with his genius upsetting.

Also Ibsen would probably be distraught if he saw this play, which deviates... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Disappointing, Great writing

See it if you are a political junkie & love seeing how some things never change. Parts of this new translation, set in modern times, were fascinatin

Don't see it if you want a well directed, coherent, believable production of this marvelous play.

Also They did a great job of making this relevant for today, and the main c... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Engaging

See it if You enjoy shows that make you think and wonder "What would I do?" Sparked some great after theater conversation w/ friend

Don't see it if You want to see something light or mindless that doesn't make you think.

Absorbing, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if a story about political cover ups on environmental issues.

Don't see it if you believe there is no corruption in politics.

Great acting, Confusing, Entertaining

See it if You appreciate classics from the Masters

Don't see it if You are confused by color blind casting

Great acting, Relevant

See it if You like feeling morally superior.

Don't see it if You're expecting Ibsen.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Engaging

See it if you are interested in politics and goverment, and enjoy different and revolutionary points of view on the matter.

Don't see it if critical views of democracy offend you or you would not enjoy emotional political speeches which break the fourth wall.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Relevant, Flat, Strangely unsatisfying

See it if An attractive, sleek and contemporary Ibsen update is of interest, its progressive casting and political immediacy ironically almost too PC

Don't see it if You prefer your Ibsen straight, with more traditional casting, making less sporadic philosophical points.

Also A capable cast, a clean if clumsy Scandinavian-styled set and a quickl... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Disappointing, Dated

See it if you enjoy good acting and good directing

Don't see it if you dislike dated plays whose theme has been over-sone.

Cast & Creatives (19)