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Theatre Review (Pasadena): The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol, Adapted by Oded Gross

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The Theatre @ Boston Court is presenting an update of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General. Though the play play considered by many to be in the top rank of great comedies, there have been numerous adaptations, ranging from a realistic approach to a surreal approach where the actors were replaced by puppets. Danny Kaye starred in a much-altered (for Kaye) Hollywood version in 1949 that went on to be considered a classic movie comedy.

So why all the rewrites? First, the play is a great satire about political corruption and thus is perfect for almost any time period or country. Second, the play often doesn’t work either because the translation isn’t funny (I have seen a couple of these) or the style is wrong. Oded Gross has now tried to do an update that includes references to modern-day corruption that can be easily identified but in the classic context. For the most part this works, but sometimes the references serve to take us out of the play.

The production is up to the high standards one has come to expect from the Theatre @ Boston Court. Donna Marquet, who has won many local awards for her designs as well as a career achievement award from the LA Drama Critics Circle, has given the production an elegant period set suitable for the piece, which is set in the late 1800s in Russia. The lighting design is by Steven Young with costumes by Tina Haatainen–Jones. Playwright Gross has also added several forgettable songs. I had trouble deciphering their lyrics.

The cast is very good, headed by a tour-de-force performance by Adam Haas Hunter who is charming, sexy, and often very irritating as Khlestakov, the guy everyone thinks is the government inspector. His character takes full advantage of the situation and steals their money and beds their women. Others in the cast are John Billingsley, Joe Fria, Alan Brooks, Dana Kelly Jr., a very funny Sharon Holt as the mayor’s wife, Megan Goodchild, Eileen T’Kaye who acted as the grounding force in this very flighty play, and Jacob Sidney as the real Government Inspector. Stefan Novinsky does a terrific job as director, keeping things flowing at breakneck speed. The show is a co-production of Theatre @ Boston Court and Furious Theatre Company and will be performed until August 26.

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