The University of Northern Colorado’s theater students spent numerous hours perfecting each scene, costume and set piece for a two-hour long performance of The Government Inspector. The play was shown for eight days at the end of September and beginning of October.
The play was written almost 200 years ago about the corrupt Russian government, but it mirrors political issues happening today. The Government Inspector performed by UNC’s School of Theatre Arts and Dance highlights abusive leadership and self-importance of bureaucrats in a comedy. The cast reflects current political members throughout the show.
The comedic aspect stems from the cast’s attempts to manipulate a situation that is out of their control. The Government Inspector emphasizes corruption, bribery, and deception. Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol wrote the play in 1836 about the Russian government. Peter Raby’s adaptation of The Government Inspector makes it into a comedy.
The play is set in a small town where corruption runs rampant. The townspeople learn that they will be subject to a government inspection leaving them worried and panicked.
The townspeople are so worried about the inspection that they mistake a poor nobody for the actual government inspector. The residents fall for the mistaken inspector because of the abuse of power and greediness in their town.
Mary Schuttler, director of the play and head of theater education at UNC, said the play is so timely because it is happening right now. The play shows the dark side of humanity with a comedic element.
“Comedy only works when the hard truth behind the comedy is driven and believed in,” said Dalanda Baldé, a junior acting major casted as the mayor’s wife. “So, while you come to laugh, also think about what we are trying to say and honestly have conversations with friends after the show. I think it is the best thing you can do after seeing a piece of theater.”
Carson Coffey, a junior acting major, who played Osip, Khlestakov’s servant, said the conversations start at the theater. While rehearsals were fun, they had many conversations about what the play was truly about. He believes the conversations after the play are what make real change.
“I think the best part of satire is when you are in the theater, you can kind of just laugh around and you don’t have to take anything too seriously, but it’s the ability to have those conversations after,” Coffey said.
The small venue, Norton Theatre, made the performance more intimate. During the show, the theater was filled with laughter from the audience. The main characters, Anton Antonvich Skvoznik Dmukhanovsky, the mayor played by Joseph Steiner, and Ivan Alexandrovich Khlestakov, a government clerk played by Miguel Muñoz, brought so much emotion out of the audience. Their facial reactions and tone entertained the crowd from start to finish.
“The dialogue is humorous and the actors make it even better because they are so good,” Schuttler said.
Schuttler says she was most proud of the actors and the designers for the show.
“You cast people who you think are going to be good in this role, but you can’t make them do things” Schuttler said. “It is their own talent, focus, work they do naturally. I knew they would be good but sometimes I sit there and go, ‘I am so blessed to be in this room.’ I really feel that way. This cast is incredible. Beyond my expectations for what they bring to their roles is something I could not teach them. It is something unique.”
Coffey said he really liked his role in the production because he got to play around while still was telling an underlying story of political turmoil through comedy. He felt uplifted leaving rehearsals since it was made to be a comedy. He also liked that everyone had their ‘moment’ in the play.
“I feel like the way we are doing the play, everyone has something fun to do,” Coffey said. “Even if we do not have the biggest part necessarily, with lines or something, we each have moments.”
“It is an incredibly hilarious show,” said Dario Correa, a sophomore acting major who played the coachman/Chernyayev. “Even jokes that I have seen so many times, it is still so funny. While it is a comedy there is still a display of corruption in government and how crazy that can be, so it does have some applicable things to everyday life as well as being a fun time.”
Joseph Steiner, a senior double major in acting and theatre studies, says he loved his character as the mayor and kept learning more about him the longer he was playing the mayor. He says the mayor is challenging, but a fun character to act as.
“Sometimes in comedy, you just get what you get and compared to at face value is just who they are but I am still learning about the character and figuring out things about him and who he is as a person,” Steiner said. “You know, just going into the rehearsal process knowing that it is never going to be the same, it is going to be different, but that has a lot of freedom involved with it.”
Jamie Richards, a senior acting major who played the locksmith’s and Korobkin’s wife, said just because the play is not written about the modern day and is set up as a comedy, does not mean that it is not relatable and relevant.
“It is incredibly real,” Richards said. “It has some important themes, but you aren’t going to be fogged down by language and semantics that you don’t understand. It’s very fresh feeling for how old it is.”
Each cast member spent many hours perfecting their part and it showed on stage. The School of Theatre Arts and Dance will perform Titanic: The Musical Nov. 16-19 in the Campus Commons Performance Hall. During the spring semester, This Restless House, Seussical, Fires in the Mirror, and Murder on the Orient Express will be shown.