BWW Review: Seattle Shakes' THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR Bribes Us with Delicious Cartoon Farce
There's a certain hilarious show leaving Seattle and leaving a void in the comedy that we all desperately need in these tumultuous times. But luckily for us Seattle Shakespeare Company has just the thing to fill that void with their uproarious Russian farce "The Government Inspector". A production with some very over-the-top and almost cartoonish sensibilities that truly earns the moniker "farce".
Nikolai Gogol's play as adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher is your typical case of comedic mistaken identity as the locals in a small Russian town learn that a government inspector is coming to investigate them and report back to the Czar. All would be fine except the officials all routinely take bribes. There's the hospital director (Susanna Burney) who's hired a Doctor (Douglas Fries) who barely speaks the language, the Police Chief (Brace Evans) with barely a police force, the Judge (Imogen Love) who looks the other way for the right price, the Principal (Brandon J. Simmons) of a school with little in the way of academics but many new sports stadiums, the Postmaster (Jonelle Jordan) who routinely reads everyone's mail, and two scheming land owners (Kevin Kelly and Arjun Pande) who may look alike but are not at all related. All of them are under the watchful eye of the Mayor (Rob Burgess) whose Wife (Sara Waisanen) even manages to get her cut from the local businesses. So, when the mysterious Khlestakov (R. Hamilton Wright) comes into town he's mistaken for the Inspector and the bribes stop flowing into the officials' pockets and start flowing out from them into Khlestakov's, which he is all too eager to accept.
Director Allison Narver has infused the show with the lightning fast pace it needs and just the right amount of whimsy without taking it to the point of mugging. She's even managed to incorporate a few delightful, well, I guess you would call them ballets choreographed by Crystal Dawn Munkers that aid in the changing of the sets but also feed into the sense of the silly. The opening "ballet of doors" was the perfect thing for the "door slammer" we were about to see. And Pete Rush's outrageously fun costumes are a wonder, each one more than a suit or a uniform but a hand painted masterpiece evoking the cartoon nature of the whole piece and emphasizing the silly perfectly.
The ensemble is spot on each with amazing comedic timing and a true sense of what's needed for farce and physical comedy without ever looking like they're trying. Each and every one of the ensemble as they switch back and forth from one character to another astounds with moment after moment of comedic gold. Wright, as usual, is outstanding as he plays with each of his unwitting dupes like a puppeteer and his marionettes. Burgess continues to be one of my favorite players to watch comedic or otherwise as he throws himself into the role and when it's a comedic one, hang on. Waisanen as his scheming sex pot of a wife is hysterical and the perfect counterpoint to the equally sultry yet stoic Shanna Allman as his daughter Marya as they both vie for the Inspector's affection. I swear Kelly and Pande must have been separated at birth. How else do you explain, not only how similar they continue to look like each other, but all that talent in one place. Again, their physical comedy knows no bounds. Even when faced with a faulty prop (literally "faced") they make it hilarious. Simmons was killing it as the dimwitted school official. And I must mention Jordan who's timing was impeccable not only as the postmaster but as Khlestakov's servant Osip with a perfect side-eye delivery.
This one is simply a good time if you just hang on and let the chaos overtake you. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "The Government Inspector" from Seattle Shakespeare Company a belly laugh of a YAY. Finally, we have some Russian Government interference we can laugh at.
"The Government Inspector" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at the Center Theatre through November 19th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakespeare Company box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.