Something’s In The Water With ‘Paragon Springs’
The JCC Uncommoners unfolded the thought provoking drama “Paragon Springs,” by Steven Dietz that is an updated version of “An Enemy of the People,” penned in 1182 by Henrik Ibsen, the Father of Modern Drama. This production opened March 3 and was stage at the Scharmann Theatre on the campus of Jamestown Community College with a cast of ten (eight students and one alumnus).
As the light rises the audience finds Rose Lindren (Whitney Poindexter) standing on the edge of town changing the landmark sign that states Paragon Springs: Population 213. There’s been a birth so Rose, a hard working woman dressed in overhauls and tool belt changes the sign accordingly. Poindexter’s character was consistently strong in spite of the community wedge that developed between she and her husband Hollis (Kipp Reynolds). Reynolds character paralleled the American workingman appearing to have a leg injury, limp and cane in hand, but needing “solid” work. His character was consistent and tender.
Don Hill and Steven Gustafson utilized their electric turntable that was noticeably quieter this production, by the way. The set sandwich consisted of three play areas: the Stockman living room, the newsroom of the Paragon Sentinel, and the universal sky blue cyc that was superimposed over the other scenes in sequence of revolution.
Dr. Thomas Stockman, the Chief Medical Examiner enters town greeted by Rose. Stockman portrayed by Jonathan Young is lively, wiry energetic and maybe a little over the top of the potential fiftyish doctor. There is not doubt that Young is one-hundred twenty percent into his character always engaged, always animated, always tracking the issues even when silent.
The audience finds that Dr. Stockman had sold some of his shares in town’s livelihood, the healing waters of Paragon Springs. The audience may have been nervous as the doctor sat on the edge of a standard briefcase during his community updated briefing at his return to town.
One of the many issues reflected in this production was freedom of speech. WXPS 95.0 “#1 in Your Heart” the new radio station conceived by Lars Howard (Alex Simmons) who was a hard workingman home from the war. Simmons was excellent in his role appearing genuinely nervous with a panicked face and tremulous hand. It was his first time live on the radio where his brother Erik (Will Gilroy) encouraged him to read the “goings on,” for the day which mostly detailed the community choir practice in it’s entirety. Simmons was sound in his role as the more vocal brother Lars who is the Editor of the Sentinel struggles with free press, syndication and community pressure.
The radio station: vintage microphone, podium and RCA turntable was played down stage right next to the proscenium. This scene played especially well in this space specific to the Sepia nostalgic gel of Lighting Designer Scott Barton. Robert T. Schlick, Artistic Director did well casting Simmons and Gilroy who resemble brothers noted to have good and clean delivery.
A quiet spin of the turntable revealed the 1929 home of Dr. Stockman, Katrina (Alexa Anderson) and Lorna (Chloe Kilmartin), their daughter. Katrina and Lorna were seated on the period couch (center) listening to the vintage floor model Philco radio (stage right) tuned to the local station. An antique torchiere floor lamp balanced the space stage right with the fireplace (stage left) ornated by a brass peacock fireplace screen, door, faux walls and winged chair. A casement window was aside of center chiffonly dressed with woodlands paned between the curtains.
Costume design was Jan Braeger who may have exceeded the small town Middle America persona of the working-class people. The women were beautifully dressed in vintage fashions but Karina Stockman as a housewife may have worn more of a cotton home dress. Lorna Stockman, a teacher was dressed in a period suit that may have closely resembled “office” attire. Rose Lindgren wore a period party or formal dress to show her feminine aside of the overhauls.
The workingmen also seemed stylishly dressed in wide leg period pleated pants often sported with an argyle vest in complement vs. clashing color. Dr. Stockman in pleated trousers, argyle vest, wool plaid coat, parted hair, hat and wired glasses was well dressed. Time was notably passed referenced by the casted costume changes throughout this production. Odegaard (Gordon Brooks) was appropriately dressed for his role of the print setter for the local newspaper. Brooks brought some humor relief to the production excited about a “pullout,” that would be featured in an upcoming newspaper. His leather “inked” apron, rolled up shirtsleeves, sweater vest and pleated trousers may have been closer to the dress of a workingman. Odegaard favored his home stilled gin that used the local water without any side effects. The Hovstad brothers’ sported similar attire looking more ivy league than common man for this time period. Their newsroom was very realistic piled with materials angled or stacked on most surfaces: two file cabinets, typing stand, desk, side table and the floor. The period typewriter, kerosene heater, cluttered bulletin board and clothes tree completed this picture.
The Widow Kroger was an abrasive as portrayed by Courtney Nielsen who appeared to be more confident Act Two. She purchased the recently available stock as the show concludes placing the shares in the name of Dr. Stockman.
Peter Stockman is Mayor of Paragon Springs and makes sure that his brother, Dr. Stockman is well aware of his hire as Chief Medical Examiner. The Mayor is skillfully portrayed by stage veteran Skip Anderson who adds some calculated thought and maturity especially when he acquired the medical examiners original manuscript that announced the potential contamination of the mineral springs. Political issues are interwoven in this matrix as well where it was noted that the (run) of “town politics is sideways not straight ahead; and politics can’t heal a town — it needs to heal itself.”
Issues too many to note are thought provoking be it democracy or majority, equality or inequality, truth, lies or freedom that the Mayor spoke of at the town meeting where Dr. Stockman was surprised that he was not the featured speaker. Rose sided with the mob at the meeting recognizing the mob was their livelihood. This scene was played downside of the cyc that was clouded by projection with an evening mist from stage fog. The layered crowd sound was effective in reverberation as the crowd mounted in support however the other white noise from the mobile radio transmission and neighboring sounds may have been distracting or over-stimulating. Other than that the Sound Design by Steve Gustafson and Dylan Leone was stellar, clean and realistically sound. Lighting Design by Scott Barton was flawless already noting the nostalgic radio look and further noteworthy the Northern Lights that rose gentle danced in the evening sky evident during the close of the town meeting. “If you stare into the lights, (you) find direction.”
Schlick, Artistic Director will be sadly missed as this is his final production of his tenure which concludes with this spring semester 2017. He skillfully moved this cast of varied acting ability across the stage creating several scenes of open-ended climax to simmer in the souls of the audience. The stage design was effective and scenes incredibly dressed. Characters would walk into scenes from stage right or left without defined doors or spaces that may have sparked audience wonder. The performance was smooth and clean with cues called by Ylsa Giuffe, Stage Manager.
This production punches old issues that run current: Is it man or woman who gets things done; what is poisoned — the water, the town or the people; is truth worth the cost; if you don’t worry — will things come out right; money is no object, you can’t rush the truth, does the public favor moderation; and is family always family at any cost. The population of Paragon Falls is now 210. The opening night audience amongst the snow was small and the applause at curtain call just didn’t seem to acknowledge the efforts of this talented cast, crew and direction so give them a great ovation even in your heart and soul has been pulled in multiple directions.
“Paragon Springs,” continues on the stage of Scharmann Theatre on the campus of Jamestown Community College through Saturday. Tickets may be purchased by calling 338-1187 or online at: campusstore.sunyjcc.edu.