First Impressions of Ibsen and The Israeli Adaptation: Students Speak

Welcoming a new crop of students from University of Michigan, California at Berkeley and Merced, and Notre Dame — Students who took in our production of BOGED (TRAITOR): AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE at Georgetown University last Thursday night.  They stayed for an informative presentation from Rabbi Michael Cohen, Director of Strategic Initiatives of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.  Perhaps our students will shed a little light on what they got from the talk-back. But more to the point, this week, is first impressions on the play; on the production; on the striking choices made by the playwright/adapters Boaz Gaon and Nir Erez in transplanting Henrik Ibsen’s tale to the Negev Desert.

Next week, students will post observations about Arthur Miller’s 1950 adaptation of the Ibsen and Miller’s intentions to update the play and how they parallel and differ from the Israeli adapters.

For this week, I share with you a little bedrock Ibsen; a quote of note and, just for the heck of it, a nice plot synopsis of the original.

“The great task of our time is to blow up all existing institutions — to destroy.”

Letter of 1883, quoted in The Drama of Ibsen and Strindberg (1962) by Frank Laurence Lucas, p. 34

The Plot:  How It All Goes Down

The future is looking bright in Dr. Stockmann’s hometown on the coast of southern Norway. At his urging, the town has built some Baths, which will bring lots of tourists and more importantly tourist dollars. Trouble arrives when the Doctor discovers that the water of the Baths is teeming with bacteria, which are guaranteed to make everybody sick.

At first, several of the town’s leading men like Hovstad, the paper’s editor, and Aslaksen, the head of the Householder’s Association, support the Doctor and his discovery. However, the Mayor, Dr. Stockmann’s brother, stands firmly against it, because the necessary improvements will cost the town tons of cash and will make him look like an idiot. The Mayor swiftly turns the entire town against his brother, and Dr. Stockmann finds himself suddenly in a hostile environment.

Refusing to have the truth be silenced, the Doctor calls a town meeting to read his findings. Once again, though, he is foiled by his crafty brother; the Mayor manipulates the procedures of the meeting so as to keep the Doctor from reading the report. Enraged, Dr. Stockmann launches into a tirade on a new “truth” he’s discovered. He announces that the true corruption in the town and the entire country is that all the power lies with the complacent majority, most of whom are too ignorant to know what’s best for them.

The Doctor’s impassioned speech only serves to turn the entire town against him. His windows are smashed with rocks, he loses his job, and his house. In the final act, he is visited by several people who attempt to get him to retract his words. These corrupt attempts only serve to reinvigorate the Doctor, who determines to start a school to spread knowledge and truth to the poor. By the end of the play, Dr. Stockmann has found strength in being alone.

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45 responses to “First Impressions of Ibsen and The Israeli Adaptation: Students Speak

  1. Austin Bergstrom

    This was my first time seeing a play focusing on contemporary political issues. I felt a little out of the loop and detached during the opening scene, which launches the audience immediately into a family in action. However, I was drawn in more as the play continued. Whatever may have lagged a bit in the opening was made up for by the fact that I was never conscious of the play being an intermission-less hour and forty minutes. This thought intimidated me before the play began, but the pacing was so energetic I was surprised when it was over.

    As far as the acting went: Sarah Marshall, as Moddy Ekstein, was excellent—entertaining, believable, energetic and on point. She seemed to get an audible reaction from the audience every time she walked on stage. Brian Hemmingsen, as Simon, was also believable and never dropped character. He was a pleasure to watch. I also really liked the way Clark Young, as Yehuda, delivered his final (traitor) speech against Tommy. I could see his confliction [uhm, not really word - ar] and defeat.

    I enjoyed the music during the set changes, and the lighting effects during the council meeting. That we became the audience cheering on Simon and the shunning of his brother (the protagonist) made me feel like I was a part of the environmental problem. The political message was achieved but not overstated. I enjoyed the way the light cast out Tommy’s shadow during his ending monologue, and the way it reflected off the metal at the very end, leaving the audience almost blinded by Tommy’s words.

    Overall I was intrigued by this adaption [er, adaptation - ar] of Ibsen’s play, and was surprised at how effortlessly the plot was translated on to current political issues. Rabbi Michael Cohen’s discussion after the play helped shed some intellectual light on the actual environmental concerns in Israel which are fictionalized in Boged. It was a valuable opportunity for viewers to understand the real, tangible gravity of this play. Embarrassingly, I know little about Israeli politics, and so I valued Cohen’s approachable discussion style. Cohen mentioned the way the environment is an issue which can wipe away all the borders and differences between conflicting people. Environmentalism provides a discussion point on which to broach other pressing issues. This insightfulness helps to explain this believable rendition Gaon and Erez present of Ibsen in Boged.

    • I agree, I think that in the adaptation of Ibsen’s play, as Austin said, “environmentalism provides a discussion point on which to broach other pressing issues”. For example, it was very interesting to me that Goaz and Erez used Ibsen’s theme of hypocrisy to discuss the plight of the Bedouins. The Israeli characters condescendingly mentioned the Bedouin people several times during the play, but they made several angry comments about the Germans’ condescending attitudes toward Jewish people as well. It was my impression that the playwrights set up the juxtaposition on purpose. It seemed to me that they were trying to show that anyone can become an “Enemy of the People”, and that by calling someone else the ‘enemy’ may mean that you yourself are the one in the wrong. They seemed to say that it is never right to discriminate against a different ethnic group, even to the smallest degree, because then you are betraying the community as a whole.

    • Hi Austin, I am totally with you on the part of how you appreciate the sound effect as well as the light effect. It’s so wise for them to assign four people sitting in the corners of the main seats. I was feeling so excited that they made me feel like I was a part of Simon’s speech. Besides, I can’t agree more on the part where you mentioned Cohen’s approachable discussion style. I felt the same way. I have little or no background knowledge about Israeli or its politics; it was very helpful for him to explain the basic situation of Israeli in political, geographic and educational ways. I really enjoy reading your comments, and knowing that we have something in common because I was focusing a little bit more on the physically setting as well as the actor and actress themselves instead of the meanings that the show wanted to portrait. :D

    • I fully agree with you in regards to feeling a little bit out of the loop when the play started, and also with the fact that the hour and forty five minutes passed by incredibly fast! By the time I really realized, it was already the ending scene, when Dr. Tommy is apologizing to the crowd. I liked your brief description of Moddy Ekstein and though she didn’t appear as often as some of the more primary characters, she definitely drew a laugh every time she stepped onto the stage. Your observation of the light and setting effects was also something that I noticed but didn’t think a lot of. It was pretty amazing how the same few props, rearranged at a certain angle, could make the scene look like a completely different context! For example, the same table that the Doany family eats and works at, looked completely different in Hoffman’s recording studio! This helped me appreciate the subtleties of theater that makes it very different from watching something on a screen.

  2. I am so thrilled that the first play our class got to see while studying here in DC was Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People. When we received our e-mail from Professor Roth with the reading material before the show, we had a few options about which script we wanted to read. I chose to read the original English translation, which was, in retrospect, a great decision. It was really interesting to gain insight on an old Norwegian town and to learn what times were like in the community at the time. I have been in many plays myself over the years so I had an easy time following along with the script and envisioning the scenes. After reading the English translation, I then read the information about the new adaptation, and what the playwright hoped to convey. He essentially said that he wanted to show that Ibsen’s play is still relevant by adapting it to our current times and setting it in Israel. At first, I laughed when the actors had all sorts of technology–cell phones and what not–because that was so vastly different than the play that I had read. I quickly adapted to this new “version” and became enthralled in the character lives and problems. The male lead was absolutely terrific. He was exactly as I had pictured in the original English translation, yet he was also perfect for the new adaption [sp, adaptation - ari]. The other actor that really stood out to me was the newspaper journalist. He did a wonderful job acting as the loony sort of guy, desperately trying to get the story he feels that he deserves. I liked that the adaptation included a TV reporter and the conflict between he and the journalist added a new relevant element to the play that was not in the original version. The competition between written works whether it be books, newspapers, magazines and television is very prominent right now, as journalism is becoming a dying field (unfortunately) as electronics take over. Overall, I was very happy with the adaptation, and was so glad I had read the original English translation so I had something to compare it to. If there is one thing I could’ve changed about the evening it would’ve the discussion afterwards. I was much less interested in the school that the Rabbi spoke so extensively about and was more interested in talking about the play and the adaptation.

    • SV, I’m surprised you were so quick to dismiss the rabbi’s talk. I thought we would talk solely about the play, but I was really interested in what he had to say. He said that the three issues most important to Israelis were the social gap, the education system, and only third was security. When I visited Israel over the summer, that’s something I was exposed to. I also figured that security would be the number one issue, but just like all of us, Israelis have a diverse and complicated world. They’ve got a lot on their plates – not just the conflict. I was also very interested to learn about the real town on which the play was based. It made the play all the more remarkable and moving. I’m always fascinated when you can take a fictitious story and place it in a real world context. The rabbi was a very interesting speaker, and I personally wish we could have talked longer.

    • Louis Sievers

      I like that you mentioned the conflict between the reporters and that journalism is a dying medium. As a Notre Dame student, I’ve felt ashamed by the Manti Te’o scandal all week. But out of the whole ordeal, the thing that surprised me most was that this whole ordeal could have been avoided from the start had more research been performed initially. While the impact of this scandal, pales in comparison to the potential of the one in Boged: An Enemy of the People, it should be noted that in both, journalistic integrity is being cast aside for the benefits gained from the falsehood. The fact that I could so easily relate one part of the play to the events currently affecting my life really struck a chord with me. The conflict between the journalist and the reporter was one of my favorite parts of the play, so I’m happy that you took note of it too.

  3. Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People
    Two statements from last night’s play resonated with me in a meaning[ful] way. During one scene, Dr. Tommy Doany states he is a scientist not a politician, to which his wife responses [responds-ar] “in a democracy, everyone is a politician.” Throughout the play, Dr. Doany receives a first-hand education in power politics and the power of the almighty dollar. Like the audience, Dr. Doany naively believes if he simply informs the public of the chemical leak contaminating the drinking water and causing the soldiers at the base to get sick, the town’s mayor, his brother Simon Doany, will be forced to act. Unfortunately, the political dynamics of this southern Israel[i] town have far too many similarities with those of Washington, DC. Dr. Doany underestimates the power of big business, represented by Moddy Ekstein, and his brother, whose single goal is to be re-elected. What Dr. Doany’s wife understands is that in a democracy, even a scientist must be a politician as everything is political. Regrettably, in today’s society, in order to enact change in the world, people must be bought, a deal must be cut and the truth must be altered. Dr. Doany’s crushing defeat mimicked my emotions as I came to realize a good man with all the facts often does not win.
    The other statement that was profound to me came from the rabbi in the post-performance discussion. He discussed the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis and how bringing students together to become educated about environmental issues is a unifying experience. The rabbi said something that struck a chord with me. In so many words, he said, “When you look on a map, all you see is dividing lines separating people from different nations; but, when you look out in nature, those lines don’t exist and you realize we all share the same land.” This is truly a beautiful statement. Lines drawn on a map are just that, fictional. Studying the environment, and realizing that we are all responsible for maintaining and preserving the land, is a unifying experience, not a dividing one. The differences between Israel and Palestine may never be resolved; but, for them to be able to live in peace, they will have to recognize they share a love of the same land, the same earth, and share a love of nature.

    • Jamesa Johnson

      I too think found these statements particularly memorable. I think that Dr. Doany’s wife had a good point about everyone in a democracy being a politician because of his need to politic AND advocate and not just one or the other. I can see why it is disheartening that this is the manner in which things most be dealt with in society today.
      I also see value in being able to politic and advocate (corruption aside) because of the potential to give a more grounded, informed perspective and a connection to the people and in this case the land. I think that the Rabbi’s statements about geography and natural resources knowing no borders is so true and having the ability to communicate that and why one should be concerned with the land not just under her or his own feet is valuable in this kind of work. I don’t doubt that Dr. Doany could’ve had this type of spirit in him.

    • This is an interesting point to bring up in terms of the state of democracy, particularly in the U.S. The idea that everyone is a politician in a democracy seems valid. Everyone, whether they believe it or not, has their own self interest that if they had their way, their issues would be taken care of in a way that benefits themselves the most. In a system where ideas are voted on, self-interested people have to convince others that their idea is the best, and that it is fair. In theory, democracy should be fair but there are outside influences like big business lobbies, corrupt politicians, etc.
      Because everything is political, it is important to understand the system so that one can get what they want taken care of. It is called playing the game. Let me be clear, playing the game does not mean being bought or making a deal that is harmful to original cause. I believe that being able to navigate the political aspect of any issue is critical to enacting change. There are times where compromise must be made in a democracy but that should not include being bought and going against what one knows is right. Money does not always overcome the power of the people. For Dr. Doany, it will take him playing the game, being temporarily defeated but now understanding that he has to use his influence to combat that of opposing powers. We must not give up on trying to change the world because of the corrupt nature of the political system and we also must not be corrupted by it.

    • Brian,
      I really like that you found the rabbi’s statement as powerful as I did:
      “When you look on a map, all you see is dividing lines separating people from different nations; but, when you look out in nature, those lines don’t exist and you realize we all share the same land.”

      I think that you were spot on with connecting it to the environmental movement and the overall driving force behind social responsibility. People sometimes forget that we are all members of the same communtiy, the global community. We are all one and we are all connected even if we happen to live on completely different ends of the earth. With environmental health, what we do in one city effects another city, which effects another state, and eventually the whole country, which effects the global community.

      I agree, many differences could be resolved with recognition that we are all part of one global family and that we are all tied to the same land and the same beautiful plant. I think the characters in “Boged” would have found this information helpful and insightful, had the realized that the Eckstein’s company was not simply contaminating the water, but was in fact killing the earth they all lived on slowly. This acknowledgement would have saved their lives and their country.

  4. Blog One: Ibsen’s ‘Traitor’- Review:

    Henrik Ibsen wrote An Enemy of the People; it was translated into English and we viewed the spectacle that is the Israeli-tinged version of the story of traitors, deception, and politics at its core.
    [In the original, Ibsen presents...] the story of a doctor who remains a popular citizen of a small town in the Negev desert, and his brother the Mayor, focused on the distinct difference between public and private money and development in the town. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value, and as such, the baths are a source of great local pride. However, just as the baths are proving successful, the Doctor is quick to learn that waste byproducts from the town’s tannery are contaminating the waters, causing serious illness amongst the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly a briefing report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution, whose only negative is that it come at a magnificent cost to the town.

    I won’t recap the entire plot of the play, because that isn’t the goal here – I will say that there was good and bad, in my opinion, about the production here.

    As far as technical direction, and everything from lighting to set decoration, wardrobe to sound, the production was nearly flawless – as Broadway caliber as we’ll find off Broadway. That said, among the barometers I use (whether right or now) to judge an off-Broadway production is whether the entire production could have taken place on Broadway.

    This show started off with very amateur-looking acting, and I thought it could have taken a nose dive, but I will say that beyond the 35 minute mark, the production turned around and acting was of a high caliber (perhaps still not Broadway-caliber, but climbing ground nonetheless).
    Overall, the takeaways from the performance were exactly what they should be – of the environment, of development, of family dynamics broken and fixed. The play went off like a new Springsteen song – you know the plot, you know what you want and get it, but there may be a sense of trying too hard at the top.

    There is no theme in the play, at least for me, more relatable than the theme of being alone – once again drawing stark contrast from other characters in the play and bold comparison with the Springsteen narrative – that life in a harmonious balance is an inherent paradox because the life-work balance, the work policy-family balance, and others may not ever be in perfect balance – that is the ultimate challenge of life as the characters see. This theme, as it is explored in the writing and plays out, brings my grade from what would be a B minus to a solid A grade – the lighting, acting, and performance highlighted this fundamentally American challenge, even as the play is set across the world, in Israel, to highlight the global nature of this emotionally human paradox.

  5. One of the very first things that came to my mind after watching the show was the title Boged: An Enemy of the People. I find it ironic as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, who gets branded with this unfortunate label, has only been trying to help the people in the town by exposing the truth about the pollution of the Baths. More interestingly, Dr. Stockmann has always been seen a friend to the town, and holds a good reputation with his work. However, after his discovery of the chemical hazards of the baths, he is gradually seen to become an enemy of the people. This shows that ulterior motives such as enjoying economic profit can deviate people from moral judgments.

    Through his interactions with his brother Peter, I realize that there is an apparent power struggle between the two brothers. In this heated conflict, it is quite evident that Peter has authority and control over Dr. Stockmann, and Dr. Stockmann is afraid to rebel against him in the beginning. However, I feel that Dr. Stockmann begins to find courage within to stand up against his own brother and fight for his own stance. When the town initially turns against Thomas, we can see frustration in Dr. Stockmann, but toward the end, Dr. Stockmann seems to embrace the label of “an enemy of the people” and accepts all the criticisms stemming from the validity of the report on the bath plants. Eventually, Dr. Stockmann even feels empowered by the alienation. The following quote really exemplifies Dr. Stockmann’s courage to stand up for his principle: “the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone”. In a way, this makes me feel that in many cases, those who have a vision to improve the lives of the people are often rejected initially by the masses but later appreciated when the society is ready for change.

    • I apologize for the mix-up of the character names. Essentially, I wanted to point out the resilience in Dr. Tommy Doany’s character. Even though he faced the challenge of facing off against his brother’s election campaign and the powerful corporation Ekstein Industries, he believed in the right cause and chose to stand strong throughout the whole process. In the end, he was more than willing to become the public’s enemy than to give up on his moral values. I personally admire his courage and integrity, and this was what I saw in Michael Tolaydo with his performance in the show. I thought that Michael Tolaydo performed with an incredible amount of vigor and he was able to present himself with a portrayal of a courageous scientist.

  6. Before seeing Boged, I read Arthur Miller’s adaptation of the play. Throughout the production, I was very impressed by Goaz and Erez’s ability to completely and convincingly transplant a play originally set in Norway into the Negev. The inclusion of Israeli politics and social issues was masterfully done, and it seemed to me that the play was almost meant to be Israeli, the storyline fit so well. It was very interesting to me how Ibsen was able to restructure the play to take on a new dimension.
    Although I thought that the playwrights’ adaptation was very well done and the actors performed their roles with admirable energy and excellence (in my opinion, Sarah Marshall was particularly brilliant in her portrayal of the elegant and manipulative Moddy Ekstein), I thought that the premise of the play itself was lacking. Despite the playwrights’ skill and despite the play’s perpetually relevant, increasingly important theme of environmental degradation, it seemed to me that the message of the play was imparted to the audience through a depressing medium of guilt-tripping and pessimism. At one point I was struck by Yehuda’s [you mean Yarden's] angry speech directed at her father shaming him for falling to his assailants’ level. She said something along the lines of ‘You’re like a child’. This was one speech I wholeheartedly agreed with. I thought that Tommy’s character was flawed, and he failed due to his own ineptitude. Generally I appreciate plotlines in which the protagonist, in this case the beleaguered scientist, cannot succeed regardless of how many times he/she tries. I think overall this displays the talent of the author and the complexities of the world; things do not always end happily. However, the message I got from the play was that the struggle of characters to help their town was hopeless, and thus it was ‘ok’ for the protagonist to fail. In Tommy’s final soliloquy he expressed his acceptance of his defeat and his status as an outcast, and called upon the angst-filled youth to finish his task. I think this position is unacceptable, and for this reason I was unhappy with the ending of the play. In my opinion, accepting defeat and handing off the task to the next generation is irresponsible. Especially with the issue of environmental degradation, saying ‘Well at least I tried’ won’t cut it, and using guilt to push the next generation to attempt to fix things is childish.
    Essentially, I think the playwrights were slightly off-base with the ending of the play. They seemed to say that defeat was acceptable, and that those who follow those who failed will have the tools to succeed, which I find to be a position of negligence. This is an environmental play, and it is my opinion that you should never be resigned to failure where the environment is concerned.

    • KS – as always, appreciate your insight and I agree that the core essence / key takeaway here is the paradox between work/life and family/work, that is – the ‘yelling’ scene you mention is critical to our understanding of the overall narrative being told — what is right or wrong with regards to reports and land usage, and what is right or wrong with regards to family versus work. It is as though the conflicts that appear in the writing are all tangentially related to each other, and that aids in our understanding of the overall premise.

    • Ari– I agree that when I typed my first statement about the premise of the play I hadn’t fully decided my argument yet. I don’t disagree with the premise of the play, it’s the ending that I disagree with. I think the play has a premise that is built on relatively common yet poignant themes. It’s the ending that I dislike. I dislike it because the playwrights construct a convincing story that evokes an emotional response, and then channel the audience’s emotional response in a direction that I disapprove of.

      Looking at Tommy’s actual words now, I agree that to an extent I was incorrect in saying that he is leaving the responsibility of confronting environmental problems to the youth. However, I still think that he accepts defeat and reduces the fight against Ekstein to a rhetorical argument that he believes he has won. He believes that his defeat will inspire anger and he seems to imply that eventually anger will incite change. Maybe he is right–it seems hypothetically sound that discontent will cause change. But isn’t it also true that sometimes the failure of people like Tommy to change things reinforces the status quo and results in the eventual desensitization of those affected by the problem. I would argue that the best way to inspire change is to succeed in your attempts, not to be defeated. Remaining ‘clean’ in the face of filthiness is admirable, but I’m not sure if that should be the goal. The play itself asks… Is it acceptable to get your hands dirty to accomplish positive change? Or would it be better to not act at all?

  7. As someone who has, to put it nicely, a limited theater background (if it isn’t a musical I’ve probably never heard of it, much less seen it), I find myself enrolled in Ari Roth’s theater class. I am excited to learn more about theater and particularly D.C.’s theater scene. “Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People” was a great start to the semester. The set, designed by Brian S. Allard [note, you misread the program: Robbie Hayes designed the set, Brian Allard the lights; ar] was simple and really allowed the audience to focus on the actors, who portrayed the story in an honest way. I was nervous when I heard that the show ran an hour and forty minutes without an intermission, but was pleasantly surprised when the time flew by. Michael Tolaydo, who played Tommy, was very moving—especially in his last monologue. Speaking of, at first I was so disappointed to think that the play was ending with Tommy giving in and announcing his research was false. Ending in such a depressing and defeated manner would have, to me, been a letdown. So I was relieved when as he continued his final words, the character Tommy throws in some sarcastic remarks that hint he still believes in his work and has some fight left. Following the show there was a Q & A session with Rabbi Michael Cohen, Director of Strategic Initiatives of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. It was refreshing to be able to discuss the show immediately after. An important comment that came up was that this play showed a problem in Israel that is not the current and ongoing conflict. It is hard to disassociate Israel from the current Palestinian conflict, which has a constant presence in the media, but this play reminds us that there are other issues that Israeli’s face. In fact, Rabbi Cohen pointed out that most Israeli’s listed the Palestinian conflict as the third most important issue—not the first. Lastly, I just want to say that if this production had a soundtrack for sale, I would totally buy it.

    • Thanks, Professor Roth. I had written the review in a word document prior to reading anyone else’s post–so I apologize for that and will be more careful in the future! Also, Austin–great minds think alike.

    • Kim, I completely agree with your statements. I too was intrigued with Tommy’s monologue at the end. I thought the scenery, lighting, and acting was all very well done and thought out. His speech was very heartfelt and portrayed what he truly believes and stands for as a scientist. I thought that Tommy’s sarcasm remarks lightened the mood for this scene and provided a little humor as well. I am happy and relieved to know that Tommy continued to stand up for what he believed. This was very inspiring to me!

  8. After initially watching the play, I too believed Tommy to be a traitor- not to his people, community, or Ekstein Industries especially, but to his ideals on how to resolve the issue of poison and pollution. What I admired most about him in the beginning was his dedication towards using scientific proof, his confidence that everyone would believe in the facts he carefully produced even when his brother was concentrated on smoothing problems over for the upcoming election. This respect only caused me to feel incredibly disappointed when Tommy was finally given the opportunity to speak for himself at the podium and threw away the results of his report in favor of practically raving at the crowd. I agreed with Yarden’s interpretation of the situation- her father had stooped to the other’s level and had lost his legitimacy. He fulfilled Hoffman’s sensationalist news story of “Doany vs. Doany,” deserved the insult of “hypocrite” that Simon spits at him, and certainly wasn’t as “pure” as he claimed himself to be in the closing monologue.

    However, the post-show discussion changed my mind. Truthfully, reconciling the eternal Jewish attachment to homeland and the emerging interests of business and politics is not so simple. As Rabbi Michael Cohen pointed out, often the best strategy is a balance of facts and politics that adjust according to the situation, and Tommy does adapt [adopt] a diplomatic tone by the end. He intends on revealing the truth and enacting change through the system, though it is difficult to ascertain what level of success he will have. It also does not paint the most positive image- will Tommy have to engage in the same kinds of threats and payoffs willingly in order to protect his family?

    I also gathered a rather depressing impression of the youth revolutionary movement. Though the spirit of the young to carry out change is brought up several times in “Boged,” none of them are able to effectively live up to their expectations. Hoffman, probably the most disappointing example, constantly attests to being on Tommy’s side in revealing the spread of the poison, but the moment his reputation is at stake and a crack in his story appears (the Americans saying Tommy’s report is biased), he completely changes sides. Yarden tries her best and is genuine in her beliefs, but she is held back by forces beyond her control (her father’s zealous speech getting her fired), and her feelings of hopelessness and perhaps her recklessness get her severely injured. This would be disheartening in and of itself, but the program has a reading on J14 that caused me to connect the actions of the youths in the play to current events. “Boged” could be commentating on the youth revolutionary movement, probably not specifically J14 but in general, saying that our hopes of bringing about a brighter future will not come from it.

    • Katharine Randle

      I really like how you trace your opinions of Dr. Doany from the beginning of the play through the post-show discussion. I felt a similar disappointment when the doctor lost his patience with the crowd. When he resorts to yelling so fiercely at the town meeting it feels as if he has really abandoned his initial noble pursuit of alerting the town to the environmental problems. I felt really uncomfortable when the actor’s voice became so loud during this speech, but I think this shocking loudness really served as an indication of how far the character had come. I think the Rabbi’s point you bring up regarding the need to reconcile facts and politics is extremely relevant. I think if Dr. Doany had a better understanding of the possible political implications of his findings, he would have developed a better approach to making change. As children we are taught the difference between right and wrong, but when we grow up we see that morality is not so black and white. If Dr. Doany’s flaw was his naïve view of morality, it would be interesting to see how he continues his environmental pursuit after learning his lesson.

  9. At its core, Boged is a play about conflict. After reading Ibsen’s original piece set in a small Norwegian town, I was prepared for the play’s central conflict between two brothers: one a scientist and the other a politician. The Israeli adaptation focuses on this same tension between fact and public opinion, but what really made the production interesting was its exploration of the tangential conflicts brought to light through the main argument.
    We see conflict between the young and old through the passionate character Yarden, an activist and daughter of the main character Tommy. Throughout the play she insists that the town needs change and that the change must come from a youth movement. Her position as a teacher allows her to cultivate this passion in her students, an ability which eventually becomes concerning to the town elders. Her belief that the righteous and truthful will prevail is ultimately tested when she is injured by an angry mob outside of her home. It would have been interesting to trace Yarden’s development after her injury and see whether or not she still maintained an idealistic view of revolution.
    This tension between new and old is also examined in the context of technological development. Embodying the two sides of this debate is the eccentric newspaper journalist Yehuda Sharabi and the polished television reporter Yair Hoffman. While the methods to their storytelling differ, both of them care more for their own success than the integrity or their journalism. Yehuda is literally paid off to report a false story, and Hoffman cares more for his ratings and visibility than telling the truth.
    All of these tensions in Boged are enhanced for the audience through the scenery. The stage literally begins to break apart at the climax of the production. A small crack at first, the division grows deeper as the characters themselves begin to turn against each other. As most of the scenes take place in Tommy’s home, the broken stage symbolizes the destruction of his family as a repercussion of his fight. The issue moves from the public sector to the private when the townspeople turn against Tommy and begin attacking his home. At the end of the play every character is just as broken as the stage is.

  10. So I guess I never really put two and two together to realize that Theater J is actually a Jewish themed theater company. That probably speaks to my lack of critical thinking skills, but hey, that’s why I’m taking a class on theater: to improve my mind. Anyways, I must say, as a Jew myself, I’m pleasantly surprised with Theater J’s Jewish connection. I never took Judaism seriously as a kid. Take my Hebrew school days for example. On Yom Kippur, when we Jews have to fast the whole day, I would leave school during break, walk across the street to Dunkin’ Donuts, grab a couple powdered sugar donuts and scarf them down in front of my whole class. I never had a Bar Mitzvah either – something my grandmother always used to say I would regret.

    Fast forward to this past summer. My friends and I decided we would go on Birthright to Israel. How could you turn down a free trip? To make a long story short, I fell in love with Judaism – perhaps not the religious aspect of it, but more so the culture and the community. When we visited the Western Wall, I remember seeing an old man in a wheelchair surrounded by doctors. Apparently it was his dying wish to see the Western Wall. Now, my dying wish would probably be to play a round of golf at Augusta National (although thinking about that realistically, when I’m dying I probably won’t be in any condition to play golf, and I’d probably be really bad by that point), but that old man hit me pretty hard. I also finally had my Bar Mitzvah at the Wall, something I’ll never forget. So that’s why I’m pleasantly surprised with Theater J’s Jewish connection.

    I’d also like to address that play we saw. It was the classic story of fighting big bad industry, a topic with which I’m fascinated. I also usually take the side of industry, also known as the “wrong” side. The pharmaceutical industry is a great example. Foreign countries issue these things called compulsory licenses, which basically revokes a drug company’s patent on a drug – oftentimes HIV/AIDS drugs – allowing a local company to produce a generic. The generic sells for a hundredth the cost of the real drug. Of course, this pisses drug companies off. They lose boatloads of profits. But why should we care about the drug companies? What about the thousands of people who die because the medication costs too much? It’s a valid point, and it’s a very unfortunate side effect of capitalism. With that said, drug companies spend billions of dollars in R&A [you mean R & D, yes?] to design a drug. There is no guarantee that that money will produce a drug, and even if they make the drug, get it okayed by the FDA, and put it on the market, it might not sell well.

    So when drug companies lose those profits to compulsory licenses, they lose their ability to invest in innovative drugs for the future. That means less life saving drugs for us. So when you think of the industry versus the little guy debate, remember that issues are more complex than that, and that the bad guys are not so bad.

    • Ari, good point on the lack of analysis. Next time I’ll focus more on the production. And yes, I did mean R&D haha.

    • As finance major from the University of Notre Dame, I appreciated Sam playing the devil’s advocate in regards to big business. Sam’s description of the difficult balance pharmaceutical companies face, weighing profits vs. ethics is very thought provoking. It’s often easy to blame Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies and big oil for all our problems. Few, however, stop to recognize that the very same oil company that spilled millions of gallons of raw oil into the Gulf of Mexico provides the gas that gets our cars to the hospital to witness our child being born. While there is no question that these companies are not perfect by any mean, it’s also important to recognize the integral role they play in our lives. In the play, Ekstein, Industrial Park faces the same balancing act. Chemical leaks are endangering the residence drinking water and causing soldiers to become sick. The town must penalize the company but also has to ensure that it remains profitable in order to keep the citizens employed. This conflict is the pressing issue in our economy today. How do we balance economic growth with environmental protection and social justice? This is a question without a clear answer.

  11. In the two weeks since my arrival at Washington, D.C., I feel as if I have become very uncomfortable. However, it must be known that this “discomfort” is far from negative. Since my arrival, I have had to face issues that I have often felt indifferent to. At first, such a feeling made me anxious, but it was in this anxiety that I learned the most. I divulge my current emotions because Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People accurately epitomizes the trade off I observe between my comfort and the impact of my newly found knowledge.

    When I arrived for the show on Thursday night, I was not sure what my expectations were. I had read the English translation of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen, but I was curious to see how Theater J would perform the adapted version–Boged. It is safe to say, I grew increasingly captivated as the play went on. I have seen many productions in theater that adapt original plays to reflect contemporary themes and/or to take place in contemporary settings, but I feel that Boged, performed by Theater J, did an exceptionally excellent job of translating the original message of Ibsen’s play (and more).

    One part of what made the play so captivating was the great performance by the cast. Though the overall production was amazing, I really want to emphasize the powerful acting of Michael Tolaydo as Tommy Doany. Given that Tommy was the lead character, I expected a great performance from Mr. Tolaydo. But, due to his accurate emphasis on certain words throughout his lines and a powerful delivery enhanced by natural rhythm and response time, Mr. Tolaydo greatly exceeded my high expectations. Additionally, I must note the skill and performance of Sarah Marshall (Moddy Ekstein) and Brian Hemmingsen (Simon Doany). I specifically highlight these three performers because the three characters (Tommy, Simon and Moddy) really spoke to me.

    Although I had watched the play and felt different emotions for each character (sympathy for Tommy, hatred for Moddy Ekstein, and ambivalence for Simon), my initial feelings were altered during the post-show discussion. In the discussion, Rabbi Cohen and the director, Ari Roth, brought up the concept of the protagonist. Initially, I had felt that Tommy was the sole protagonist in the play due to my feelings of sympathy. But as Rabbi Cohen spoke about his observations on the nature of conflict resolution, it became clear to me that every character was a true protagonist in their own way. Rabbi Cohen stated how the students at Arava Institute are often from conflicting backgrounds and how they often come from different standpoints that are “right” in their own opinion. This made me wonder about how Moddy Ekstein and Simon Doany may be just as “right” in their own way as Simon was to me. Like Rabbi Cohen said, every individual has different preferences or priorities. In Boged, all three characters had different motives for their actions, but they all based their motives on what they believed was right. As a brother myself, I understand Simon’s need to protect Tommy while advancing his own need to become a prominent man after his father’s death. I also understand Moddy Eckstein’s strong vision of making the “desert bloom”. This spoke a lot about the nature of politics as everyone is adamant in their beliefs and motives. But, as we saw in Boged, this creates a scenario that is similar to a lose-lose situation. Nobody benefitted because no compromises were made. Such a conclusion and after-thought caused me to become uncomfortable because I saw an interesting similarity between the polarized nature of our current U.S. representatives and this play. Throughout the discussion, I debated whether there are any right solutions to our nation’s problems if everyone is “right” in their own perspective. But in this self-conflicted battle, Rabbi Cohen provided valuable insight that assisted my discomfort. He clarified that it was in finding a common ground and a common cause that his students found affection and compromise. By working for a common cause, the students envisioned how they could work together in the future and became friends. For the students at the Arava Institute, their commonality was the environment. But this made me wonder, what is OUR nation’s common ground? If the issues that we must tackle cause polarization, what issues will we find to tackle together as a whole?

    Overall, I felt the play made me feel uncomfortable because it left me with lingering questions about the politics of our nation. But that is how I know Boged was truly a great production. I believe only a great performance can effectively make the viewers address the questions the playwrights (Gaon and Erez) wanted to highlight.

  12. Goan and Erez’s adaptation of Henrik Iben’s An Enemy of the People was very interesting. They cleverly conveyed the same concepts addressed in Ibsen’s original play with modern day and contemporary problems in Israel. This really opened my eyes to issues that I was unaware of and unfamiliar with. I had no idea about the current environmental issues taking place in Israel.

    I thought that the majority of Boged’s cast did very well throughout the play. Moddy Ekstein did a great job portraying her character and switching sides (from supporting Dr. Tommy Doany in the beginning to then supporting Simon Doany in the end). This switch in character presented what I believe is an essential theme of this production. This portrayed how easily one can be influenced by politics and money, even if it is at the expense of innocent people. Many characters, like Mayor Doany and Ms. Ekstein, were driven and heavily influenced by money. For example, Mayor Doany was well aware of the pollution that his factories and plants were producing, and how it was affecting the inhabitants of the town. He had the facts and scientific evidence because his brother, Dr. Doany, presented the results and data to him. However, he did not listen nor did he seem to care about the well being of the town. He only wanted to continue building factories because to him, it would bring in more jobs, and he could not risk a decrease in his popularity right before an election. Ms. Ekstein also was influenced by power and money. She originally was fully dedicated in supporting the findings of Dr. Doany. However, her opinion changed. She then turned to support Mayor Doany instead, which in turn humiliated Dr. Doany and his family.

    Overall, I thought this production presented the main ideas and concepts behind Ibsen’s original play; yet successfully presented them in a more relatable way. In addition, I really enjoyed the Rabbis discussion after the show. At UM, I took the Jewish- Arab Conflict class, and so I recognized what some of the issues were and names he said. That aside, I thought he did a very good job articulating his work and what is currently being done to address the environmental problems.

    • Rachel, I am so glad you talked about the character, Moddy. I agree that I was really happy with her acting and was completely engaged in her enthusiasm when she changed viewpoints. I agree with Prof Roth that she was really manipulated into believing Simon rather than Tommy. I thought it was interesting that she took her 110% passion and turned it around 180 degrees. It takes a great amount of talent to keep the audience in sync with something like that. And on top, I think she earned the most laughs from the crowd. She had a lot of great facial expressions and really kept the show rolling. I never once wondered what time it was because I think the play had a very nice flow, part of which I credit to the character Moddy.

  13. Louis Sievers

    Heading to the theater at Georgetown on Thursday, I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Boged (Traitor). Knowing very little about the politics or environmental issues of Israel, I wasn’t sure if the story would resonate with me, but I found myself completely captivated while viewing it. The story itself was very good, but the acting and production of the play took it to another level as a contemporary adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

    Clark Young as Yehuda and Sarah Marshall as Moddy Ekstein were the two performers that particularly impressed me. The way Yehuda changed from the first act to the last, the way he was built up in the third act to potentially expose the truth and be a hero, only to reappear as a broken man who gave up his principles to provide for his family, is a perfect representation of the message of the play that corruption can infect anybody. And Marshall’s somewhat humorous portrayal of Ekstein as someone who effortlessly changes to fit whatever side best suits her is the perfect personification of the moral poison that Tommy fights against. Also her interactions with Simon made me feel uncomfortable; knowing that such interactions are usually the norm and not the exception for politicians.

    Having read the English translation of Ibsen’s original play, I assumed that Boged would end very similar to that one, so when the stage first cracked, I thought that an additional power plant meltdown had occurred and was surprised. Upon realizing this was not the case, this dividing of the stage became one of my favorite parts of the play. I understood that it represented the breakdown and poisoning of the morals of the other characters. During the final monologue, when the cracks grew larger, it showed that this moral poisoning could spread through the audience, which I found troubling. Adding in one of Rabbi Cohen’s points in the post-show discussion, that the play could be called Traitors for all of the bystanders did nothing when they had the potential to stop the problem, the final monologue becomes even more disturbing. If I were a character in the play, I could not guarantee that I would become another guilty bystander; and I don’t know how I feel about that.

    Overall, I feel like the playwrights did a good job of preserving the ideas from Ibsen’s original and applying them to a modern day environmental issue. They also were able to create a very entertaining play in the process.

  14. This was my first-time experience with theater, not only in American, but theater in general. I believe that I was the only one people whose language wasn’t English, but I have no difficult to follow the entire play. It was a wise decision to read a lot, as our Professor Ari Roth suggested, before go to see the play. It was much easier for me to follow the play and devoted my full attention to it as I have read the articles about the play.
    As Katy Doany started to speak, I got goose bumps all over my body because I was so excited. In terms of the setting, I found out that there was no Microphone, but I could still hear them very well as I was sitting on the back row. I couldn’t help to think how many times they should practice to memorize their lines, and how hard they need to practice to get such powerful voices. The dog’s sound was very real as well as the later on noise came from the back of the stage. The details about what characters were wearing and their gestures, their physical languages were very interesting throughout the play. For instance, had noticed the sweat stain of the mayor, which implied the season and the weather of the scene. And whenever one felt struggling, stressful but helpless, their arms would prop up to the table and their bodies would lean to one side.
    The reporter, Yair Hoffman made my first laugh and my first thought about the play when he said to the Mayor, “Are you scarifying the well-being of the town to get re-elected?” The mayor paused there for a few seconds, and changed the topic by saying “Good morning…..”
    A discussion afterwards about should have named the play the “Traitor” or the “Traitors” was very impressive to me. It’s simple to discover who are “good men” and who are “bad med” from a play. However, it’s not that easy to define good or bad in real life. It is meaningful to stand on different people’s point of views: Simon, the mayor, obviously, wants to have all the power in hand and be the strongest man in the South as long as possible, and he indeed is a very capable man; Yair wants to get good stories regardless of the situation or the truth so that he and his company could get profits from it; Yehuda wants to get himself be recognized by the large public, it’s also a human instinct; Moddy wants her business, which she inherited from her father, to keep expanding, and she does stimulate and help the town’s economy; Alex wants to make more money, not only for himself but also to support his daughter’s family. From their own point of views, each character has their own explanation to define what they are doing is “good” to themselves, and to the large public. They were all very selfish, but what made Dr. Doany become the Traitor might not because of these people. Dr. Doany himself was being too naïve to trust people from different backgrounds, who were just orally supporting him.
    It’s significant to introspect and apply it to our real life. Often times, people are struggling with their truth belief and the pressures from reality. It could be as simple as what school we want to be in and what school does accept us; or, it could be as complex as what happens in the show, the long-term well-being of the people and the current threats.
    I feel so worthy to take the bus in such cold winter night to see the play. It makes me feel honored to take this course. I believe I will definitely experience more and expose more to the American society. I would definitely love to recommend it to all my friends and relatives.

    • Melissa Correia

      Jingru, I think you really picked up on an important aspect of Gaon’s presentation of the play. I think you are right when you alluded to the fact that the central question of the play is who is or is not guilty? Is there anyone in the play who cannot be considered a traitor or a savior in some way? Dr. Doany was certainly perceived as a traitor by his family, but yet can also be seen as a hero in the sense that he tried to stand up for what he thought was best for his community. Although he himself was blinded by resentment over the attitude of his brother Simon Doany, still his efforts to save the population seem admirable in light of Moddy Ekstein and Simon Doany’s selfish inconsideration of the wellbeing of the community. I thought the ending of the play stood out the most, in which when Dr. Doany gave his monologue he seemed to be also accusing the audience to be traitors, and offering them the option to choose whether they would be a Simon Doany, a Moddy Eckstein, or a Dr. Tommy Doany in the narratives of their own communities.

    • Jingru, I am glad to hear you enjoyed your first American theater production! I also got goose bumps during multiple parts of this play and am happy that other people were experiencing similar emotions. Great job with acknowledging how impressive these actors are. I wish I would have put that in my blog post. They do have to work so hard to memorize their lines and project their voices—they all made it seem so easy, I almost forgot about that aspect. Thank you for reminding me how amazing these actors are. Lastly, thank you for reminding me to reflect and apply the themes to my own life.

  15. Mark Greer II

    Leadership

    At the University of Michigan, I double major in Political Science and Afro-American and African studies. My focus has been on development, law, the environment and social movements. I wanted to take this “Politics of Theater” course to learn about how political systems, ideologies, and lessons can be portrayed the arts. “Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People”, was our first play together as a class as well as my first play that focused on domestic Israeli issues. My cultural perspectives are that of a Black American who has studied social movements with the purpose of comparing the social climates of these movements with today’s conditions.
    I find that most social revolutions start with a person or group of people who decide that the status quo is not good enough or even harmful to the public. These leaders take a stand against mainstream culture, economic principles, and often times the law of the land. These leaders risk their social standing, the economic security, and their family to do what they feel is right. Sometimes they go from being popular among those they intend to lead to being the enemy. The problem with leading a social movement is that one has to be willing to take these risks, even if they are the only one.
    Dr. Doany is a prime example of such leader. His determination to appeal to the town that although the industrial park created many jobs and is fueling the economy, is destroying the environment and endangering the citizens. He faced several challenges that well-meaning politicians and citizens face including apathetic constituents and backroom dealing among officials that hold power. While these forces tried to silence him through intimidation and violence, up until the end, Dr. Doany maintained his conviction that advising against what the town wants was the right thing to do.
    The sad thing about revolutionaries and other activist, many of them either do not live long enough to bring about the change that they want, are bought out, or give up. For those who sold out on their causes, it is important to understand that only God can judge and that we as outsiders can only be upset at them so much. For those that give up, it is understandable due to the risk that one is taking on one’s life and that of their family. During the discussion, there were a few comments about how some members of the audience were frustrated that Dr. Doany seemed to have given up on trying to convince the town and had in fact embraced the money hungry ideals of the businessmen and politicians. He did, however, have a monologue at the end that revealed that he still held his own ideals, but he seemed to challenge us to take on the type of leadership that he exemplified and deal with those pressures. Many of us are unwilling to do so and hope that someone else will take charge. We, in turn become the Traitors to humanity and ourselves.

    • I agree Mark. I think it is extremely important to make parallels from the play to our own lives. In my own life, I am part of a pro-affirmative action and civil rights group (BAMN) that is ideologically aggressive in advocating for its ideals. This group is interested in forming a new civil rights movement that will have leaders to step up and rally the masses. While the causes of this group are thriving in Detroit, on the elite campus of the University of Michigan, the stances of this group are less than popular.

      When you bring up how Dr. Doany may have been viewed as a sell-out to the movement, I found this to be very compelling because I have struggled with this with people in BAMN. BAMN has seen several people seem to emerge as leaders and then drift into the shadows and disappear, creating some conflict within the group about people not being devoted to the cause. However, those that are not as active in the group as others maintain their same progressive ideologies, they just choose individually to focus on their academics and be involved with the group as they can, instead of making the group a lifestyle.

      While some of the more active members of the group may see them as sell-outs, they maintain identical stances as the group and advocate for more student involvement. This is very similar to your comment on how Dr. Doany’s final “speech” was more of a call for others to step up and fight against the mainstream; he was not just giving up, but calling for more support because his was a battle that he could not fight on his own. I feel like this is the main point of my student organization, and retaining enough members on the UM campus that can have enough influence in Ann Arbor is something that BAMN still struggles with. I liked how you brought the modern aspect to the play, because it made me think about my own life and the analogies to my own life even more. Very insightful!!

  16. Jamesa Johnson

    When thinking about Boged (Traitor) I think that there were some pretty exquisite performances and that there was an immense amount of symbolism, which made for a richer theatrical experience.

    Some of the things that were most striking included a statement by Tommy Doany to the soldiers that “Soldiers don’t give up” and the soldier replied, “I’m not a fighter.” This conversation seemed to be one that actually elucidates Tommy’s behavior throughout the play. He, like a soldier, had a cause but was not a fighter and eventually acquiesced.

    In Tommy Doany and his families dealings with enterprise we saw ‘the industry’ characterized as corrupt, fear-forming and deceitful, despite its benefits. It seemed as if people were more afraid of what could happen then what was happening which I think is indicative of not only the geopolitical situation faced by Israel but the current environmental crisis that we all are facing.

    I thought that calling into question what people were willing to not just live for, but live with was both relevant and necessary. By asking the question ‘do you want environmental degradation or poverty as a means of death?’ really brought to the forefront the binary that has indeed been created; that there is a difference between investing in the economy and protecting the environment. When in reality both are incredibly intertwined. In Boged, it was possible see how the dilemma of where investments should go would be problematic-where one might see industry as a form of stability in a region where things are not always stable.

    Nevertheless, seeing the role of enterprise, politics and media play out in the dealings of the environmental threats at hand was a visualization that is currently playing out most everywhere and as a result of that the play is made much more of a universal story. The ability to situate a story with completely different contextual details to one’s own frame of reference accomplishes what many stories cannot. Because of the adaptability of the story, I found myself making connections and comparisons to the United States of America. I thought about the fact that Moddy Ekstein was often referred to as “A true patriot” and the role of enterprise that she figuratively played falls in line with the connection between democracy and capitalism and the difficulty dealing with the ascendancy of these companies can have in places where the stakes are so high.

    As a final thought the statement “Everyone is a politician in a democracy” is what I saw as a theme in the play. Whether you define politician as a public servant or a sycophant, a revolutionary or a demagogue each person has a role in a democratic society, the question Boged leaves us with is: which one will you choose to be?

  17. I found Boged: An Enemy of the People to be a relatable play because its theme of struggling for a good cause and struggling against a powerful competitor are very salient in many situations, which makes this play extremely adaptable even though all of the unique details in this play may be a bit foreign to some people.

    I found it very interesting in the play when Dr. Doany made his presentation about the toxic damage done by the factories and no one was interested in his findings, because normally one might predict that after hearing findings like this, people (and especially parents) would air grievance with their city and there would be huge outcry. During the after-show talk, I was glad that this issue was brought up. The Rabbi said that Israelis are aware of pollution problems but are not informed enough about the magnitude of those problems to make the issue salient to them. The Rabbi also mentioned that all of the people in the play that we may have considered bad actually did have good intentions and were doing what they were doing for what they considered to be the greater common good. I thought that this was a compelling statement. I think that it is likely that many of us watching the play who are surrounded by academia instantly considered Simon Doany the “bad” brother and the Dr. the “good” brother. Indeed, this is what Dr. Doany himself appeared to believe.

    I thought this was extremely riveting; in the play Dr. Doany, as an academic and professional, assumed that evidence from academia would prevail over logic to his people. However, the people of his town, largely not in academia I would assume, rejected his arguments because they were coming from more of a rational mindset that the factories were doing good for the town by producing jobs and by being businesses that served the people. I think that this is an important factor to keep in mind for anyone who is trying to stand up for a cause that she/he believes in: it is important to connect to people’s logic, and not just throw numbers and figures at them. You really do need to relate to them in a simple manner.

    Now I continue to wonder what Dr. Doany could have said to make the people rally on with him in his fight. Perhaps he could have emphasized the danger to children, and opened up his speech with riveting emotional appeal; maybe he could have opened up by criticizing his brother and his greed and saying that his only motivation for the factories was to win favor with the people so he could win reelection. This question I am still left to ponder. However, this lesson is one that I will take with me in my personal life as I encounter various opposing opinions to my own.

    • I also found the crowd’s reaction to Dr. Doany’s presentation to be thought-provoking, especially since there was already a degree of objection to the pollution caused by Ekstein Industries from the start of the show. Unlike the original translation, there is not a blind faith in Ekstein Industries to bring the town prosperity, and so I think the crowd’s willingness to follow Simon and Ekstein even when there was a possibility that they were endangering them adds to this adaptation’s complexity.

      Additionally, I agree with what you said about Simon seeming like the “bad” brother and Dr. Doany the “good” brother. It was very easy to be skeptical of Simon the politician, and considering that most of the play is from Dr. Doany’s perspective, it was shocking to see another side shine through as it went on. There are so many other factors to consider besides the scientific concerning the town that Simon, as the mayor, cannot ignore. There’s also another level of “good” and “bad” that is layered on when Simon passionately describes how their father waited for Tommy to return from Norway. To him, he will always be the “good brother” since he has gotten Dr. Doany out of so many problems, stayed by his father’s side when he was dying, and stuck with the town while Dr. Doany was only focused on his results and what fame would come to him. Your point about Tommy taking another stance to convince the people is intriguing, but maybe it wasn’t possible because Tommy is so straight-minded (if that makes sense).

    • Austin Bergstrom

      I like that you brought up Rabbi Cohen’s discussion of even “bad” characters in the play having good intentions. He gave a very intelligent, well-rounded discussion of the state of environmental issues today. This ability to approach problems diplomatically is critical in a democracy, and the play makes it clear that there are no easy classifications of who is “good” or “bad” or what it really means to be a traitor. Mary, I like how you mention the sympathy you felt for Simon which goes back to what the Rabbi was getting at. Peter Stockmann and Simon both believe (on some genuine level) that they are doing right by their people, community, and family. However, both characters have to play into frustrating political power games which cloud their morality. It seems that Dr. Doany fails because he will not be more flexible and politically savvy in his approach. Ultimately he is, as he claims, a scientist, not a politician.

  18. Boged placed an emphasis on the importance of familial relationships, constructing a society where “family” is a central value and making me more sympathetic towards Boged’s Simon than I did towards Miller’s Peter. Boged’s Simon is a willing victim of circumstance, choosing the role of a “bad guy” in order to protect the community that he grew up in. This idea that he is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is constantly repeated, particularly when he demands that Moddy Ekstein leave his brother alone as part of their dirty deal. The idea of family as a key theme is revisited during the confrontation regarding the Doany brothers’ father. Simon is seen as society’s ideal man when he remains at their father’s deathbed, while Tommy is at odds with the expectations of society by putting his career first. Family also influences how the play ends. Though arguably cynical, Tommy still bends under the pressure when Yarden is injured, acknowledging that his reports were wrong when clearly that is not the case. On the other hand, Miller’s Stockmann persists at the truth, sacrificing social norms and replacing them with a set of alternative options that would achieve the same results (ex. how to educate his sons). I do not feel that he sacrifices his family’s welfare in this pursuit, because he presents a practical plan in how to deal with the difficulties that they will face going into the future.
    I will admit to a slight preference for Miller’s adaptation of the play. Miller’s version appealed to me more due to its focus on hegemony and how it dictates the actions of people within its sphere of influence. Miller’s Hovstad, for example, chooses to side against the Doctor because he fears a societal backlash beyond the decrease of readers. He is too fearful to truly stand out and he ultimately chooses to sacrifice the truth in order to play to society’s constraints on how a “liberal writer” should act. On the other hand, I felt that Boged’s Yehuda overplayed the idea of wanting recognition (for what I believe he states is “fifteen years” of work), making him simply a man chasing after fame via a channel of controversy. His eventual buy-off by Moddy Ekstein only confirmed my perception of his character as someone whose loyalties shifts whichever way the wind blows. Regardless, Boged is still a spectacular piece and I’m glad that I watched it for my first theater experience.

    • Lilliana, I really enjoyed your comments on Boged. More specifically, I really appreciated your thoughts on how the “family” values are a central theme in this play. You were able to communicate the thoughts I also referred to in my comments (but more eloquently than I could have!). I agree that Boged incorporated this element of “family” more so than Miller’s version of the play. However, we do differ on one final note. While you have “a slight preference for Miller’s adaptation”, I personally enjoy Boged because of this central familial theme. Let me reiterate that this is a personal preference! Concurrent with your thoughts, I also found Simon’s dedication to his family as admirable (in his own way) and very relatable. By focusing on this element, Boged felt more realistic and reflective of my own values; values I think everyone can relate to. It also showed me how good individual intentions can sometimes be led astray when one focuses too much on one’s OWN beliefs rather than looking at a larger perspective. As an example of such, Simon Doany does become “a willing victim of circumstance”. This is such an interesting point because it makes me wonder at what point my own good intentions could falter in order to protect my personal priority: the safety and happiness of my family. Overall, I appreciated your comment, and thank you for your insightful (and eloquent) thoughts; it really let me dig deeper into my own personal thoughts!

  19. Melissa Correia

    Israel is a popular site of political conflict. Yet the media pays so much attention to Israel’s external problems, that internal socio-political struggles are often overlooked. Boaz Gaon’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE allows the internal narrative of the Israeli community in Beersheva to derail his viewers’ preoccupations with Israel’s political feuds, by focusing on the familial conflict between the brothers Doany. Gaon’s presentation seemed to communicate that, like Israel’s external battles, Israel’s local struggles cut deep down to the core of family ties, race, class and culture, by exposing each individual’s opinions for what they really are in the light of wider public debate; and by accentuating the impact that these opinions have upon culturally sensitive and politically active members of Israeli society.
    Yet although the play focuses on the reality of the internal struggles of Israeli communities, I think that the impact of the environment of tense, external political conflict can also be perceived from the reaction of the crowd to Dr. Tommy Doany’s statement at the political rally.
    BOGED(TRAITOR): AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE was eye opening for the wider community who challenged the presence and courage of civil society in Israel to find the truth and to present solutions for remedying social problems. It may have also been distressing for those who thought prior to watching the play, that the political machinery would at least offer citizenry some means of speaking out, and of controlling their own destiny.
    Gaon’s adaptation also presented the interconnectedness between family ties and political affiliation, and candidly attested to the importance of money and investment to a population that has become at least indirectly reliant upon foreign capital for support and sustenance.
    At the end of the day however, I believe that BOGED(TRAITOR): AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE both cautioned and celebrated, or grieved over (depending on how you choose to look at it), the power of the individual and of the community to lobby for the kind of change that they want to see in Israel. The play heralded the restoration of faith in a messianic messenger who although exiled from the crib of public support, will rise again through the efforts of those who have the opportunity to fight for truth, and choose to do so despite the consequences.

  20. I very much appreciated the underlying concept of Boged. Yes, it placed emphasis on the value of family and the power of strong relationships, but more importantly, it exposed a few short-comings of our modern society. Where do we draw the line between industrial growth and environmental health? Do the benefits of the Ekstein industries outweigh the risk of environmental degradation and public health concerns?

    The character Tommy struggled with finding this boundary. When he discovered the contamination, he was faced with choosing to protect his brother and his immediate family or the community’s health. Simon, Tommy’s brother, was the mayor and a respected public figure. The community looked up to him and trusted him to make educated and sincere decisions regarding the town’s well-being. Therefore, when he discredited Tommy’s report on the status of the Ekstein contamination, the community believed him. The community turns on Tommy and he becomes an “enemy of the people.”

    In Ibsen’s original play, the main character Dr. Stockmann says that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitudes. Dr. Stockmann sums up Ibsen’s denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote “…the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.” He also says: “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.”

    This was represented in Boged near the end of the play, when the stage split into pieces and Tommy finds himself standing alone. He knows he will ultimately be alone in his beliefs and that it is better to stand strong and alone than to stand for something you know is wrong. He publicly apologizes to the community for the sake of his family’s safety, but is ultimately personally defeated. He still knows he is right and that is something that he will have to live with forever.

    Boged strikes the question of how we can successfully accomplish change. How does one person make a difference? How do you obtain power? How do you make people listen? Tommy was not successful in causing change–he did not have the power. So it makes me think, what else could he have done or could he have done anything? How can we encourage people to think as individuals while balancing what is best for the common wealth?

    I found this play very interesting and very thought provoking. Very well done and very insightful.

  21. Elena Velasco

    Having recently re-read a translation of Ibsen’s original Enemy of the People, it seemed apparent that Ibsen’s aim was to present his audience with questions, not answers. When is the majority right? Do we hear the voice of the minority? How does presentation change perception? And can change, in fact, ever happen without the majority?
    Gaon’s adaptation works harder to ask the audience to question one’s own self, rather than question society as a whole. While environmentalism is the backdrop for Ibsen’s examination of society, Gaon has made the fight between politics and ecology front and center with his social justice agenda (myself a strong proponent of theater for social change). True, Gaon’s words leaves fewer questions unanswered than the original, but while there are blatant villains in his tale, no character is flawless; they are all human and all culpable. Gaon’s “Dr. Stockman” – Tommy Doany – is no one’s image of a classic hero; but here again, that is what makes him human. Tommy is not the model leader, not a charmer, not even truly humble. He is, in many ways, the everyman. And yet it is every man who must call into question his conscience when faced with right versus might.
    Conceptually, it was interesting that despite the seeming realistic approach to the text, aesthetically –in the very least with regards to set design – this world was placed very much in the abstract. The minimalist furniture, asymmetrical corrugated metal background, and slightly ominous projections created a somewhat surreal feel to the environment. Perhaps Megel’s and Hayes’s intent was to draw parallels in our mind between the issues of toxic run-off in the Negev desert to the both literal and figurative toxic environment in which we live here in our nation’s capital.
    I am curious to see how this play evolves. For myself, its values lies in the fact that it challenges American audiences to recognize the Boalian nature of theater – that theater is a vehicle for change. Though Boged may be a work in progress, Tommy’s final speech – a distinct call to action – identifies us all works in progress. A very meta thought.

    • Thanks, Elena! Nice to get a Catholic University MFA voice into the rest of these newbee reactions! And thanks for coming to see RACE last night! Look forward to your comments about that show as well!