Review: The Government Inspector: Far More Than Just Three Stooges in Russia.3 min read

Michael McGrath, Mary Testa, Michael Urie, Talene Monahon. All Photos by Carol Rosegg.

The Government Inspector: Far More Than Just Three Stooges in Russia.

By Ross

Who knew that a play first published in 1836 by a Russian and Ukrainian dramatist by the name of Nikolai Gogol could be so current and hysterically funny today. The Government Inspector written as a satirical play so many years ago skewering corrupt politicians and landowners was not written, I’m assuming, as it was presented by Red Bull Theater at The Duke on 42nd Street. The ideas that this production present seem as relevant today as they must have been back in old Russia.  Multi-layered, with a madcap direction by Jesse Berger (Founding Artistic Director of Red Bull Theater), this comedy of errors centers on a backwater Russian town’s Mayor, Anton Antonovich, the hilariously intense Michael McGrath (The Front Page). He mistakenly identifies the irresponsible narcissist, Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, played with a preening charm by the absolutely adorable Michael Urie (Buyer and Cellar), as the incognito Government Inspector that is rumored to be arriving into town.  To say that The Government Inspector makes a contemporary comment on our political environment would be as simplistic as one could be in explaining this satire. This play, although hilariously simple in it’s setup, is quite devilish in it’s taking down of politicians and their like. Jeffrey Hatcher, the man responsible for this brilliant adaption states, “Audiences can see the contemporary versions of Gogol’s mayor and his cohorts every minute of the day on television, so they’ll have no problem making the connection between an 1830’s Russian backwater and a House of Representatives oversight committee”.
Mary Testa, Michael McGrath, Michael Urie. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Michael Urie couldn’t be more appealing in this silly but very funny play, satirizing human greed, stupidity, and the political corruption of all the powers that be in this Russian town.  Hlestakov as the man they wrongfully believe to be that Inspector personifies all that is irresponsibility, self-absorbed, and arrogant, with the absence of any measure of shame or guilt. He gladly goes along with the outpouring of bribes and shameless kindness being granted on this hopelessly broke gambler who has visions of grandeur.  Finding himself in a financial pickle of a predicament, penniless from luckless gambling, and owing the innkeeper a fair amount of rubles, Hlestakov finally gets a dash of luck when the Mayor and the two ridiculous landowner twins (who aren’t related), Bobehinsky and Dobchinsky, played by the Three Stooges-like pair, Ryan Garbayo and Ben Miehl, show up trying to save their corrupt skins from being written up, found out, and sent away to prison. They quickly pay Hlestakov’s debt and move him to the Mayor’s House where he will be wined and dined until he gives them and the town a positive review. (for the full review, click here)
Tom Alan Robbins, Stephen Derosa, James Rana, David Manis, Luis Moreno, Ryan Garbayo, Ben Mehl. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
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