This show runs approximately 2-1/4 hours, including one intermission.
THE HOUSE OPENS 45 MINUTES BEFORE CURTAIN. You may want to arrive early to enjoy the exhibit in our art gallery with refreshments ranging from coffee and cookies to beer and wine.
POST-SHOW DISCUSSION: Join the company of The Government Inspector for a post-show discussion following the Sunday matinee on March 3.
AUDIO-DESCRIPTION: The Sunday, March 3rd performance will be audio-described, based on reservations. Click here for a description of this and other access services at TRP.
About the Show
(company members are listed at the bottom, following the interview with the director)
When the crooked citizens of a small Russian village learn that the government is sending an incognito inspector to root out corruption, they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a sterling review; regardless of how much bribing, lying and kissing up it may take. What they don’t count on is the twit they mistake for the Government Inspector.
Written in 1836, Gogol’s satirical farce translates readily to today’s audiences. TRP’s production leverages the Jeffrey Hatcher adaptation written for the Guthrie Theater in 2008; and it’s Director Kari Steinbach’s fourth turn at directing a literary adaptation in our arena (Sense and Sensibility, Romeo and Juliet and The Metromaniacs).
Interview with the Director
Q: This Jeffrey Hatcher adaptation was first produced at the Guthrie. Did you see, or do you have any connectivity with that production? And if so, any takeaways from that experience?
STEINBACH: I didn’t see the Guthrie production, but when I told people that I had been offered the opportunity to direct the play, so many of them remarked about having loved that production. While I wish I had seen it, I’m a little glad I didn’t so that my directing choices are my own — and not something I’ve seen elsewhere.
Q: Hatcher’s play is an adaptation of the original 19th century work of Ukrainian dramatist Nikolai Gogol. What in Gogol’s life experience makes his story appealing/relatable to a modern audience? And how do you as the director approach period and classical materials and make it real and engaging for the audience while keeping it true to the playwright’s intent?
STEINBACH: Well…I don’t think you have to look very hard to see how this story is relatable to today. As I write this, our government is currently experiencing the longest shut down in history, there is some kind of new governmental scandal nearly every day, and the events and characters from Gogol’s play really don’t seem much more improbable than what we see happening in our own government.
As for directing period pieces — I don’t feel like it’s much of a struggle for people to relate to the stories of another time — the clothing changes, the language and the tone is distinct — but people are people — and we relate to stories, and we see ourselves and those we know within those stories no matter how they are told.
Q: Where and when are you setting your production and what’s the thought process behind that? If you are setting it in 19th century Russia, are you having your way with some artful anachronisms/regionalisms?
STEINBACH: The play is set in 1830’s provincial Russia, and to some extent, that is what you’ll see. That being said, I’m not forcing my designers to toe the line on period accuracy and authenticity. With the farcical nature of the play, we are giving ourselves permission to stretch faithfulness to the period. For example, when I started researching Gogol and the play, I began listening to the contemporary gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello and other musical groups of that genre. The band uses the name Gogol because he brought Ukrainian culture to Russia, just as the band and its Ukrainian born front man, Eugene Hutz want to bring Eastern European music to the English-speaking world. I was drawn to the threatening and slightly dangerous quality of the music and the way that trait matched the chaos of the world of the play. Music director Warren Sampson and I spent months before the auditions passing musical options back and forth to come up with the songs we are using. I’ve encouraged the other designers to pursue that disordered and exaggerated style in their designs as well.
Q: One of the notable adaptations of this story is the 1949 musical comedy film The Inspector General with Danny Kaye. Are you using live music in this show? Talk about that choice and how you’re making it happen.
STEINBACH: Once I made the decision to use live music in the show, I knew that I wanted to incorporate the musicians into the cast. Most of the musicians have also taken on a speaking role. We have an extremely talented group of 9 creating our music and sound effects using guitar, mandolin, bass, violin, stumpf fiddle, clarinet, flute, accordion, keyboard, percussion, and autoharp (and perhaps more after I write this). Warren Sampson, who I also worked with on Sense and Sensibility, is gifted musician and handily leans in to the tone and feel that I try to set for the production.
Q: While the original script dates to 1836, Gogol’s story seems Shakespearean in its plot devices revolving around mistaken identity and bad characters straining to win favor with a perceived big shot. Comment on this.
STEINBACH: The themes of moral corruption, bureaucracy, and the abuse of power are well illustrated through this satirical farce. The satire is expressed through the ridiculousness of the characters, among whom there is not a single redeeming character to be found; rather, they are all buffoons who display, not evil, but mediocrity and incompetence. The farcical elements come through with the mistaken identities and broad absurdist situations. Together, the genres effectively poke at governmental corruption. Hlestakov says it best: “Your leadership and this town represent what our country is, at this moment in our history, all about!”
Q: How many in your cast? Any inventive casting you care to mention?
STEINBACH: We have an ensemble of 24 that all appear as characters on the stage; this is by far the biggest cast I’ve worked with in this space, and it is a challenge and a joy. I love the intermingling of musicians and actors and the gypsy, circus-like feel that it provides to the production.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
STEINBACH: The cast and I were very excited to have the opportunity to discuss the play with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher about mid-way through the process. He was generous enough to share his thoughts on adapting the play; some of the audience responses to the production in Minnesota, New York, and elsewhere; and the timeliness of the subject matter to our country’s current state. He also fielded questions from the cast about their characters, how the play was received in Gogol’s Russia, and more. For me (and I’m sure for many in the cast) having the chance to meet and interact with the playwright will be one of the highlights of this production. Thank you, Jeffrey Hatcher!
Hospital Director: Peter Aitchison
Osip: Thomas M Buan
Chernyaeyev: James Christianson
Bobchinsky: David Denninger
Mayor: David F. Dubin
Pentelaeyev/guitar: Tom Ehlinger
Corporal’s Widow/stumpf fiddle/flute: Lois Estell
Dobchinsky: Mitch Geiken
Postmaster: Phil Holt
Judge: H. William Kirsch
Abdullin/Imperial Messenger/mandolin/guitar: Ryan Lee
Innkeeper’s Wife/Constable/vocals/percussion: Tynelle Marschall
Peasant/accordian/autoharp: Denise Martineau
Doctor: Jim Neumann
Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov: Andrew Newman
Anna Andreyevna: Anna Olson
Constable/violin/keyboard: Laura Potratz
Waitress/Locksmith’s wife: Bridget Russell
Peasant/bass: Alec Sampson
Peasant/band swing: Warren Sampson
Marya Antonova: Autumn Sisson
School Principal: Daniel Vopava
Peasant/clarinet: Abigail Ward
Grusha: Kathleen Winters
ARTISTIC & PRODUCTION STAFF
Director: Kari Steinbach
Set Designer: Devyn Becker
Costume Designer: Deb Murphy
Lighting Designer: Bill Larsen
Prop Designer: Abbie Krohn
Sound Designer: Warren Sampson
Music Director/Conductor: Warren Sampson
Stage Manager: Toni Solie