Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Modern adaptation of classic satire hits the Page

By Paul Schmitt
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Photo by Jason Underferth

The Page Theatre recently underwent a Russian invasion the weekend of Nov. 7-10 with the student performance of “The Government Inspector.”

The play, written in 1836 by Nikolai Gogol, is a satire that revolves around the corruption of the citizens of a small provincial town in Russia as they spiral into a frenzy caused by the rumored surveillance of their town by an incognito government inspector. The SMU Theatre Department, however, used a script adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher in 2008.

“The play still takes place in 1836, but the language is very accessible,” said guest director Gale Childs-Daly, who came to department for the semester with experience text coaching for Winona’s Great River Shakespeare Festival.

Childs-Daly noted that one of the most difficult aspects of directing the show was working with such a young cast, since most of the performers were only freshmen or sophomores. Still, she said they were doing “very well,” when asked a day before opening night.

Though working with an unfamiliar director can be challenging, many of the performers seemed to appreciate it. Alex Green, a senior SMU Theatre major, who played the role of the Mayor in the production, said “working with a guest director is really great, because it gives us the opportunity to work with someone different, which is part of the main reason to be a theater major at all.”

Brian Pipal, a senior SMU Theatre major who made his role as Hlestakov his senior project, affirmed Green’s opinion, and said that one of the most challenging parts of the play was the humor. “I normally have trouble with comedic timing,” said Pipal, “and when you run a show a hundred times with no audience to laugh, it’s hard to see where you’re at.” 

Judging by the amount of laughs the play received from the audience, he had nothing to worry about. The adaptation modernized much of the humor in Gogol’s original, and added slapstick humor, jokes about sexuality and the stardom, and dance routines between scenes, all of which were relatively well-received by the audience.

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