This year, presenting a production before Thanksgiving but starting school after Labor Day (a week later than last year) has meant seven weeks rehearsal/one week tech instead of the usual eight weeks rehearsal/one week tech. All in all though, it has kept Broad Run High School’s Theatre Department very busy concentrating time, energy, and dedication into this year's fall production, the Russian farce “The Government Inspector” by Nikolai Gogol. Translated into English under the titles “The Inspector General” and “The Inspector,” our version has been translated by Eric Bentley but we also use the D.J. Campbell version as a cross-reference to check for understanding.
We chose “The Government Inspector” because it demanded a highly stylized acting technique that supplied a vast multitude of challenges and learning experiences for the actors. In directing the show, we wanted to hold true to the Russian elements of Gogol’s story while illuminating similarities between the government Gogol wrote about and any other organized government in the world. Setting our Inspector within the borders of the Post-WWII United States during a period of heightened awareness regarding Soviet Russia, our aim is to reveal the timeless, boundaryless, partisanless kernel that Gogol first dared to depict in his original story.
His play, a story about mistaken identity, corruption, and the peculiar ability to deceive ourselves, was originally published in 1836 and set in 1830’s Russia. The action walks us through a very particular day in the lives of several government officials, as well as the entire town, all who wonder why they deserve to be visited by a government inspector. After all, they accept no more bribes than the next guy, they are no more crooked than the next guy, and their biggest question is simply “Why did this happen to us, instead of the next guy?!?”
At the time, Gogal’s play was so well liked by Tsar Nicholas I, that he fast-tracked the play into production claiming it ridiculed everyone, most of all himself. In our time, we hope you find the play filled far more with caricatures based on cartoons than true characters based in a tangible reality. And, of course, as the line goes…we hope, in some way, “you are laughing at yourselves!”