"We haven't the right to be happy" claims Pastor Manders. The antagonist of Ibsen's Ghosts has denied sanctuary to a woman who loves him, shaming her into returning to an abusive husband for the sake of propriety. Last night I attended Shaw Chicago's production of Ghosts at the DCA Theater. Ibsen's original audience was scandalized by the immoral characters that the Pastor faced. A contemporary audience greets his harsh words with laughter. Ibsen seems to be saying that we, like the characters in Ghosts, should know better than to listen to moralists.
Pastor Manders presents an intriguing contrast to Mayor Peter Stockman, the antagonist of An Enemy of the People. Both men cling to their reputations and suck the oxygen out of any room they attend. They think nothing of entering a friends house and saying "You can't afford that food" or "how dare you read these scandalous books!" But while the Mayor cynically manipulates all those around him, the Pastor will naively believe any man who flatters him. This leads him into one business blunder after another.
These men sacrifice all who love them to protect their incomes but it has been said that Ibsen writes no true "villains." They are allowed a sliver of pity, for their investments are doomed to fail and they will left completely alone.
Shaw Chicago presents Ghosts from April 18 - May 11, 2009.
Robert Scogin, the Artistic Director of Shaw Chicago, will speak on Red Tape's panel, Ibsen's Women, on Sunday, May 10, 2009.
Red Tape Theatre presents An Enemy of the People from May 4-30, 2009.
Paul G. Miller