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Talented actors brave Dietz’ tainted waters
by MATTHEW NASH
Standing with his principles against the majority, one man must test his will in Olympic Theatre Arts’ production of “Paragon Springs,” Steven Dietz’ adaptation of “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen.
In a small Wisconsin town at the height of Prohibition in 1926, Dr. Thomas Stockman, played by Gary McLaughlin, investigates the poisoning of his town’s tourist trap, a hot spring that some believe can heal.
“It centers on telling the truth and standing on that truth,” director Roger Briggs said.
“And what is the cost of telling the truth?”
Sharon Briggs, assistant director, said the town splits on the issue of cleanup as the focus turns to the economic impact rather than the environmental.
Two brothers, Eric Hovstad, played by Jeremiah Paulsen, and Lars Hovstad, played by Colby Thomas, run the town’s newspaper and radio station. They side with Stockman’s cleanup effort until finances become an issue for the town, when they change their tune.
Roger Briggs said playwright Steven Dietz, who reimagined “An Enemy of the People,” pits Stockman against the town’s people with their greed and self-interest, leading to the play’s notable line: “The majority is always wrong.”
“Paragon Springs” is the Briggses’ first main stage OTA production, but they’ve worked together since 1987 in various shows and led two small productions for the Sequim theater.
Roger Briggs said he chose the play because community theaters in general need to be exposed to new plays.
“When we read this version (of “An Enemy of the People”) set during Prohibition and with the politics of the time, we see a lot of parallels today,” he said.
Bob Willis, who plays Mayor Peter Stockman, said he sees a lot of contemporary echoes in the play, too.
“Some actors became involved because they feel it has something to say,” Sharon Briggs said.
“Paragon Springs” is an ensemble piece with 10 characters within the small town played by McLaughlin, B.J. Kavanaugh, Willis, Richard Lord, Sharon DelaBarre, Jeff Marks, Thomas, Paulson, Lily Carignan and Danielle Chamberlain.
McLaughlin said he was familiar with Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” and figured the play looked like it was worth doing.
“Ensemble is always my favorite to direct and to be a part of,” he said.
Willis said he hasn’t acted in 40 years; he moved to Sequim a year ago.
“I wanted to get involved in the community and figured this would be a good way to get involved in the arts community,” he said.
“It’s funny, it’s real life, it’s things that affect people and what they do,” Briggs said of the play.
Sharon Briggs said “Paragon Springs” touches upon several elements of the time period, including the hypocrisy of Prohibition and women’s suffrage. She said a struggle is visible between engaged couple Lorna Stockman, played by Lily Carignan, and Lars Hovstad, played by Thomas: Stockman wants an equal marriage but Hovstad does not.
“Paragon Springs” is set in three locations that Roger Briggs said transition seamlessly with help from his longtime set designer Will Langemack, a Bainbridge Island architect. They’ve partnered since 1990.
Langemack created Paragon Springs’ newspaper office, “The Sentinel,” the Stockman home and the edge of town.
The actors have rehearsed together for more than 100 hours, Roger Briggs said, and he expects them to be proud of their work and of being a part of this play.
“They’ve all created distinct individual characters,” Briggs said.