Moving back to your hometown can be an enjoyable experience. Meeting all of the people you once knew and catching up on old memories can be exciting but what happens when coming back means coming to terms with your past and the frightful knowledge of discovering that something is dangerously wrong.
This adaptation of the 1882 play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," centers around a small, North Chicago suburb that restarts with investing in a charter school, is the A Red Orchid Theatre premiere of "Traitor" directed by Michael Shannon. Ibsen wrote the original play in response to the public uproar over his play called Ghosts. Ghosts challenged the hypocrisy of Victorian morality which was deemed indecent for its veiled references to syphilis. Iben, upon completing this play wrote these words to his publisher in Copenhagen, Denmark: "I am still uncertain as to whether I should call it a comedy or a straight drama. It may [have] many traits of comedy, but it also is based on a serious idea."
Traitor is a play that deals with this very ideology of the dilemma of being honorable in a deceptive environment. Dr. Tom Stock, (Guy Van Swearingen) a well-liked head of science teacher discovers a deadly secret hidden under the ground of a newly opened charter school. His hometown has been left desolate, and the investment of the school has been a significant component in helping to save it; however, Tom's discovery has caused an uproar. His sister Patty, (Kirsten Fitzgerald) was furious with her brother Tom that she asked to come back to the town in hopes of helping him and his family from his past issues of being too smart for his good. Tom is known to be a troublemaker a turbulent past when it comes to him speaking his mind; however, he has been up to this point very helpful since returning home; but things are about to change.
The fight between Tom and his sister is due to him asking a friend to test some soil near the school. Tom gets the scientific answers he expected; the school has a high level of lead contamination. Like Bill Nye, the science guy, he gleefully shares this news with his family and his friend, a journalist named Walter Hove (Larry Grimm) and Walter's associate Madison (Kristin Ellis) but omitted to share it with his sister; who also happens to be the Mayor. Walter comes up with an idea to aid Tom to get the news out which will also help Walter's struggling newspaper.
With support from a local businesswoman Jenn (Natalie West) that has the wit to urge other business owners to back Tom, they put a plan in motion to tell the town. Tom is elated about finally having something that he thinks will make him infamous amongst the town's people suddenly finds himself in a battle against his sister who is adamant about saving a town that she never left from absolute shame. Walter and Jenn get a dose of reality from the mayor, and Tom's friends become foes as they head to the council meeting.
To see this portion of the play, we were a little surprised by the announcement that we would have to leave the theatre which was already a little cold and go outside to another location to see the town council meeting. Thankfully no rain, snow and the temperature was warm. The town council meeting was hilarious and well performed with several discords of outburst with a host of confused council members and a frustrated chairperson well played by Mary Jo Bolduc. The excitement begins when Dr. Stock is banned from discussing his unproven findings of contamination makes a speech about how smart he is over the council members who he describes as basically a bunch of arrogant lying idiots seeking to control those that were naive and less intelligent than himself. The council was upset at Tom and banished him from speaking at any future hall meetings. They also informed him and his daughter Molly (Missi Davis) that they are no longer welcome at the school and should look for employment outside the district. His wife Karla (Dado) is also relieved from her assignment as an editor.
In the final scene is when Karla's father Howard, played by Frank Nall tells her that he can help Karla and Tom if Tom just fabrications about his findings which will make them all rich but Karla refuses and the Stock family with Tom listed as Traitor is considered an outcast of the community. To make matter worse, his son becomes the first known child to be affected by lead poisoning.
Let's Play recommends this play.
The cast includes:
Karla Kihl-Stock (Dado),
Madison Bills (Kristin Ellis)
Patty Stock (Kirsten Fitzgerald)
Walter Hove (Larry Grimm)
Dr. Tom Stock (Guy Van Swearingen)
Randal Stock (Nation Henrikson)
Molly Stock (Missi Davis)
Jenn Sheffer (Natalie West)
Howard Kihl (Frank Nall)
Fran Wysocki (Mary Jo Bolduc)
Bill Strand (Stephen Walker)
Eric Rhyde (Jacob Alexander
A Red Orchid Theatre of Traitor
1531 N. Wells Ave.
By Brett Neneu
Directed by Michael Shannon
January 5 – February 25, 2018
Filed under: ChicagoNow