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The Pretenders

John Cromshow: If a title could say it all, An Enemy of the People certainly speaks to an all-too-modern trend in which criticism of political leaders is equated with treason.

The Independent Shakespeare Company is well known for their “free” outdoor productions in Griffith Park. Bring lawn chairs, a picnic basket, a blanket or two and be prepared for an evening of live theater. You can expect a few surprises before the final curtain, even though there is no curtain. I was surprised last weekend because ISC has an indoor space and was offering a staged reading at their Independent Studio in Atwater Village.

the pretenders

If a title could say it all, An Enemy of the People certainly speaks to an all-too-modern trend in which criticism of political leaders is equated with treason.

The Pretenders is a tale from medieval Norway written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It combines elements of psychology and politics in a surprisingly modern way. You may be familiar with A Doll’s House, which was the most produced play in the 20th Century. “A scathing criticism of the marital roles accepted by men and women which characterized Ibsen’s society.” If a title could say it all, An Enemy of the People certainly speaks to an all-too-modern trend in which criticism of political leaders is equated with treason.

The Pretenders’s struggle between two men who vie for the crown is fierce. Who is best suited to lead? Whose vision can guide the nation into a more prosperous, secure and enlightened future? The play is so modern that I asked Director Joseph Culliton if the new version by Charles Edward Pogue had been rewritten. “I had a conversation with him,” Culliton said, “and he told me he had added only one line.” An amazing work of translation since the notes tell us that Pogue “was totally unaware the play even existed until 15 years ago.”

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I downloaded a free online version of The Pretenders for a snowbound day. Worth considering are certain parallels with Hamlet. Both Ibsen and Shakespeare based their plays on Scandinavian history and legend. “The hero as fool” will never leave us. ISC has “pay what you can” productions through the month of February. More information at www.iscla.org.

As I was leaving the theater I saw Bennett Kaiser, former member of the LAUSD School Board. He was driven out of office when millions of dollars from those who want to privatize public education overwhelmed his campaign. Bennett told me a similar effort is underway against pro-public education Board Member Steve Zimmer. Political struggles from medieval Norway to the Halls of Congress seem to revolve around money. That’s another story.

john-cromshow

John Cromshow