I laughed so hard, it was like the Shakespeare Theatre was spreading laughing gas throughout the Lansburgh theater.
I so enjoyed this delightful comedy by Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol, I bought the script, read it, and enjoyed it even more. The script used by Director Michael Kahn (the STC Artistic Director) is by Jeffrey Hatcher and thanks to reading the script I discerned that one of my favorite actors, Hunter Foster, played the leading role at the Guthrie Theater production in 2008.
That role, Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, is in the very capable hands of Derek Smith who milks this funny role with every soul of his body. He has amazing comedic timing. If you look at the play's logo, you can see why I think he looks a little like Robert Downey, Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes' film. Why he's not a huge star in theater, movies, or television, I'll never understand. He has it all.
Smith's character is just a small government clerk who has hit hard times (but still has a servant, the understated Osip played by Liam Craig) arrives in a small provincial town far from St. Petersburg and is mistaken immediately for a "government inspector" who will report back to the Tsar about the doings in the town. Yes, it's a tale of mistaken identity and Gogol has developed an amazing potpourri of characters who each bring their own special madness to the evening.
The town has a history of using pay-offs as a way of doing business. And as soon as town leaders meet the "government inspector", the money starts rolling in to their guest in order that he give the town a good report to the Tsar.
There's the Mayor (played with great aplomb by Rick Foucheux), the Judge (David Sabin) who allows geese in his courtroom for culinary reasons, the School Principal (Craig Wallace) who admits one can never fire a teacher, the Hospital Director (Lawrence Redmond) who builds a hospital where only midgets or children can fit through the doors, the Postmaster (Floyd King) who knows everyone's business because he reads each and every piece of mail that comes to the town, and a foreign doctor (Tom Story) who does not speak the native tongue and wears old airplane goggles.
There's also the Mayor's wife Anna (played by the incomparable Nancy Robinette) and the sex-charged daughter Marya (played by Claire Brownell) who both want to bed the inspector.
Then there's Sarah Marshall who plays three roles and almost single-handily almost steals the show. She's remarkable.
And I haven't mentioned yet tweedle dee and tweedle dumb, two characters who will remind you of the two huge puppets used in the musical WICKED. There is Dobchinsky (Harry A. Winter) and Bobchinsky (Hugh Nees). You will never forget these two buffoons.
Are you getting the picture yet??
It's like an "E" ticket ride at the original Disneyland.
Kahn has assembled a great team with Murell Horton doing the outrageous costumes, James Noone with a lovely set, Phillip s. Rosenberg with great lighting, and Adam Wernick as composer.
THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR is a night to remember. Don't miss it.