An Enemy of the People

 

“Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls has chosen well in selecting Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People for a new adaptation, currently onstage in the Albert Theatre. One hundred and fifty years after its debut, the play’s themes feel ripped from today’s headlines. Press materials succinctly describe Ibsen’s complex masterpiece as follows, “When a water contamination crisis puts their community in peril, two brothers—Dr. Stockmann and Mayor Stockmann—face off in a battle of political ambitions and moral integrity.”

If this synopsis evokes visions of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or if it reminds one of the Flint water crisis, which is approaching its fourth lead-fueled anniversary, this is no accident. Falls’ staging of An Enemy of the People tweaks the timeless source material just enough to leave absolutely no doubt that we’re looking at today’s sociopolitical climate. Ibsen was ahead of his time but he didn’t coin the term ‘fake news.’ Audiences will see terrific actors in comely period costumes rather than MAGA hats, but Falls and his production team won’t let us leave Trump’s America.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

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Missing in Action: The Week’s Overlooked News Stories

missing

Welcome to May! Is a reporter fired for an unusual Prince tribute a “Sign O The Times?” Can we make a supermarket terrorist eat his weapons? And a dedicated, waitressing granny enjoys a pleasant surprise from one of her customers. It’s a mixed bag this week…. 

Sports anchor fired over his love for Prince

The staff of BeckySarwate.com continues to struggle with the loss of one of the world’s all-time greatest musical minds.  As information surrounding the life and death of Prince continues to trickle out, the multi-layered devastation of his passing becomes more clear. Drug overdoses are preventable, and after a career devoted to clean living, it’s sad and ironic that pain and addiction may have produced a stereotypical rock star end for a truly unconventional artist. As we consumed everything Prince-related that circulated through the news this week, this story got our attention. A reporter from Nashville was relieved of his duties after he gently wove Prince lyrics into a sportscast.  We find the line “The clock hits 00:00. Oops, out of time. It’s the Ducks who are going to party like it’s 1999,” to be clever and, frankly, perfect. Prince was a huge sports fan and enjoyed a good pun. The reporter’s bosses didn’t agree. If we had jobs to offer, Dan Phillips wouldn’t be in the unemployment line. As the Purple One might have asked, “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”

Michigan man sprays toxic mix of chemicals on open food in grocery stories

Toss this one in the “humans are senselessly disgusting” file. It’s our job to monitor it of course, but the news can be depressing. It reminds us of how flawed and awful man can be. But this story? Ugh. Another level. The FBI got involved in the case, and says this punk (we won’t use his name) targeted about 15 different stores in cities across Michigan, including Flint. Because Flint hasn’t suffered enough. Whatever the maximum punishment is for this sort of criminal filth, I hope the courts levy it.

Grandmother raising triplets gets a special gift

Well, we need a shower and a healthier page turn. So we bring you this heartwarming story from North Dakota. A waitress was proudly discussing her triplet grandsons on the job. Shiela Weisgerber has been raising the four year-old boys on her own since shortly after their birth. One of her tables, a husband and wife visiting the area from out of town, overheard the conversation and decided to leave a large tip and a kind note on their receipt to show their support. For every crazy poison sprayer, there are generous, empathetic people. That’s how society keeps its balance.

Motown Meltdown (May 28, 2012)

Detroit

 

 

I want to talk about something in a politically non-partisan way. It’s true I am a liberal Democrat by stripe and spend part of my freelance writing life as a hard blue columnist for a popular left website. But I am a human, a woman and an American first – in that order – and sometimes I witness scenes that make me wonder how anyone from any vantage point can believe that this country is on the right track.

This past Memorial Day Weekend I ventured with Steve by Amtrak to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. It is here that my partner spent his formative years. He attended college in the late-1980s at Wayne State University in the heart of the city, holding down various jobs before he migrated to Chicago in 1996. I traveled with him to the Motor City, the once-glorious birthplace of the automobile, the R&B Garden of Eden where Berry Gordy established Hitsville, USA and launched the Motown legend. In the 1930s, Detroit was christened the “City of Champions” owing to its successes in the sporting realm. During the first two-thirds of the 20th Century, Detroit was Americana, the symbol of society’s mechanization and social evolution.

But then the Motor City fell on some famously hard times, troubles that date back several decades. Between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population fell by 25%, plummeting in the ranks from America’s 10th largest city to its 18th.  The 2008 housing bubble burst delivered some of its loudest pops in Detroit, where a perfect storm of unsustainable subprime mortgages, crushing unemployment and falling home prices left behind scads of abandoned buildings and lots, often as far as the eye can see. Opportunistic investors can still take advantage of foreclosed homes that cost hundreds, rather than thousands of dollars. The sinking ghost town is a breeding ground for drug activity and violent crime, further eroding home values.

It’s true that White House policy over the last four years salvaged the auto industry, Detroit’s remaining lifeblood when combined with tourism/casinos and hospitality. But with local budgets strangled and plagued by red link, there are simply no resources left to level the rampant blight that welcomes visitors to town.

I was astonished when I alighted from the city’s Amtrak station last Friday evening, a structure no bigger than your average two-car garage, aesthetically dull and devoid of concessions or any comforts beyond a restroom. The station was constructed in 1994 as a replacement for the former Michigan Central Station, which closed in 1988. A quick Wikipedia search of the Central Station revealed more glory come decay. The previous structure was once identified as the tallest rail station in the world, with some 200 trains traveling in and out each day at the outset of WWI, while 3,000 workers held jobs inside the station’s office tower. Today exactly six scheduled Amtrak trains enter and depart the city each day, while less than a handful of workers enter the minimalist station.

There is no doubt that the Motown Museum is an impressive tour and a fabulous bargain at $10 per entry. But when Steve and I went in search of food after our Saturday afternoon excursion, we had real trouble locating anything more than a KFC here, a unserviceable Subway outlet with reinforced bullet proof glass protecting the counter there. I suppose I take for granted that when I walk out onto almost any Chicago street, multiple culinary options await.

And oh the heartbreaking destruction of the streets and architecture, the abject poverty, the lack of pedestrian and vehicle traffic that evokes the classic Kurt Russell film, Escape from New York.

I do not fault the citizens of the Motor City or even the local government for a failure to resolve what must seem an insurmountable mountain of challenges. It is possible that Detroit’s most glorious days are simply in the past. But that is no excuse at all for our failure to deal with the conditions of this piece of our collective history on a national level. I found myself wondering at several intervals over the course of a three-day visit, “If a tourist from another land decided to stop in Detroit, what impression would it leave of the country as a whole?” Is Detroit’s decline a metaphor for the decaying American dream, the death throes of a dynasty that can no longer sustain its promise?

Stranger in the House (May 24, 2012)

I haven’t ventured this deep into a steady’s territory since January 2007 when I met my now ex-husband Eddie’s parents on a visit from Mumbai. I fared alright at the time but that was five years ago. I know it’s rote and passe to write in such pedestrian terms but I was, quite literally, a different person then. Or maybe I was exactly the same but I had no grasp of what that shape that ought to take.

I have evolved now – for better or worse. I have come a long, long way in a yet to be completed quest to accept my fractures and quirks, though somehow the incremental certainty has made me less rigid and more relaxed. I’m learning to accept that I might not be everyone’s cup of tea and that “everyone” might include traditional sources of unconditional love, but so what? I deserve to sleep at night however unconventional.

And so I take this new and fragile self-awareness to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan this holiday weekend in an effort to get acquainted with my partner’s family. We’ll journey by Amtrak, fulfilling a long-felt desire to travel by train in the process. He makes things happen for me that way.

I’ve been present for phone call exchanges between my mate and his people and it’s a heartbreakingly loving experience, from parents to siblings. He is a good man and it follows that he’s a fabulous hybrid of nature and nurture. Time was when I would feel oppressively strained and skittish: entering into a situation in which I felt so out of my element, the product of the most unhealthy of environments.

I mean no harm. I’m just a little feral sometimes. A well-meaning superior at the office told me that I’m likable but “need time to grow on people.”

But whatever. I have spent too many years psyching myself out of enjoying the moment. I make him laugh. I can make them laugh too right?