The Red Bull Theater’s Gogol staging is quite a stylish extravaganza.
By Joel Benjamin
The Government Inspector, based on the 19th century Russian author, Nikolai Gogol’s Revizor, has been given a pleasantly chaotic production by the Red Bull Theater at The Duke on West 42nd Street. Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, this story of corruption and greed still resonates today, despite its outrageously farcical staging. A large contingent of cartoony characters are here well drawn by a cast of gung-ho actors who have no fear of being over-the-top silly.
The cast is led by a manic Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar) who is mistaken for the title character in this classic mistaken identity tale spun out energetically, if not with total panache.
Known mostly from the 1949 Danny Kaye film, The Inspector General, it is interesting to go back to the original which is more bitter and misanthropic. In the Gogol, as in the film, the corrupt officials of a small Russian town, led by the mayor, Anton Antonovich (a marvelously crazed, frenzied Michael McGrath), hear rumors that a government inspector has been sent out by the Czar to sniff out corruption. The Mayor gathers all the town officials and local landowners to talk strategy. They focus in on a newcomer, Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov (Urie) who is causing mischief at the local inn.
Once the assumption is made, Ivan is wined and dined and even offered the hand of the Mayor’s daughter Marya (a delightfully pouty Talene Monahon), even though her mom, Anna (Mary Testa, boisterous, yet stylish) has her eyes on the youthful interloper. Ivan is bribed by the town officials who, in typical farcical style, keep slamming doors and making their guilt way too clear. They are: Tom Alan Robbins as the shady Judge, David Manis as the underhanded School Principal, Stephen DeRosa as the Hospital Director whose hospital is fit only for the tiniest of midgets, James Rana as the doctor who speaks no known language, Luis Moreno as the stupendously inane Police Chief and Arnie Burton the Postmaster, who reads everyone’s mail, much to the consternation of all concerned and is the one who reveals the possible presence of the Government Inspector, whose identity is revealed in the last moments of the play, causing hilarious panic in the cast.
Mary Lou Rosato essays three roles, the Mayor’s maid, Grusha, the Locksmith’s Wife and the Waitress, and is brilliantly inventive in all three. Arnie Burton also plays Osip, the wheedling Servant to Ivan. As the Innkeeper’s Wife, Kelly Hutchinson is wonderfully snarky. Ryan Garbayo and Ben Mehl play two lookalike Local Landowners, Bobchinsky (Garbayo) and Dobchinsky (Mehl) and are brilliantly bumbling with their beards and big bellies as they wander through the plot, totally clueless.
Alexis Distler’s two-level set and Tilly Grimes elaborate period costumes are the kind rarely seen in off-Broadway productions and, with Dave Bova’s hair and wig design, turn The Government Inspector into quite an extravaganza.
Megan Lang and Peter West’s lighting somehow overcame the difficulties presented by two parallel playing areas and provided festive color and mood to the staging directed by Jesse Berger.
Berger might have pulled in some of the high spirited performances, particularly Mr. Urie’s in an extended drunk scene in which he made some anachronistic references while wildly tossing himself about the Mayor’s home. However, the overall mood was consistent and the pacing remarkable considering the stylistic challenges.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
The Government Inspector (May 16 – June 24, 2017)
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues)
New York, NY
For tickets, call 646-223-3010 or visit www.dukeon42.org
For more information, visit www.redbulltheater.com
Running time: two hours including one intermission