“The Government Inspector” brings a tale of deceit, corruption and mistaken identities to the stage


Chris Reich – NSU Photographic Services

“The Government Inspector” deals with such age-old themes as corrupt politicians, mistaken identities and some good old-fashioned deceit in a hilarious and satirical light.

How do you bring a classic like Nikolai Gogol’s play, “The Government Inspector” to the stage, especially in an era of short attention spans and social media? That was the question Sean Bartley, assistant professor of theatre history, grappled with when attempting to translate and adapt Gogol’s text to the stage.

“The Government Inspector” deals with such age-old themes as corrupt politicians, mistaken identities and some good old-fashioned deceit in a hilarious and satirical light. Although Gogol’s play is set in nineteenth-century Russia, Bartley’s adaptation deftly brings the text into the twenty-first century.

Austin Anderson, a sophomore theatre major, delivered a brilliant performance as the Mayor of the unnamed Russian village opposite his onstage wife Anya (played by senior Victoria Hickman) and daughter Sasha (played by junior Mallory Speir). The success of the text depends on each actor’s comic timing, and neither Anderson nor his castmates were slouches in that respect.

Another example of excellent comic timing was evident in the pairing of seniors Sarah Lord Holoubek and Virginia Tudor as the bankers Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky. Their physical comedy skills and ability to play off one another as the inept bankers were unmatched, but witnessing the insanity of the social media account (that’s a recurring theme in this play) that the two created under the name @thechinskys on Instagram prior to seeing their performance in the flesh was an added bonus.

However, the highlight of the evening was senior Derek Walle’s performance as the titular “inspector general.” Recast as a sort of devil-may-care influencer, the same excellent comic timing Walle displays as a member of the Out on a Limb Improv Troupe was on full display here. A highlight of Walle’s performance was the desperation he displayed in attempting to keep his stories straight while wooing both Anya and Sasha.

Logan Dupuy portrayed the clueless Hospital Director quite deftly, along with her (literal) partners-in-crime, Allyson Adams as the bribe-happy Judge and Joy Davis as the School Superintendent with a secret or two.

Now, back to the whole social media thing. As opposed to boring the audience to death with an awkward and uncomfortable blackout during scene transitions, Bartley incorporated one of Generation Z’s most preferred forms of social media: TikTok.

Mia Claire Huffman and Charlysse Casma’s appearances as TikTok content creators served to liven up the transitions by presenting TikToks on such subjects as “how to bag a sugar daddy” and “best restaurants in Moscow.” Casma and Huffman’s performances as content creators were lively and helped to wile away the transition time and move the story forward.

However, one of the most unexpected moments in the production came in the form of the wedding sequence. This entailed Walle and Speir riding onstage on hoverboards while celebrating their characters’ nuptials. This was just one part of an unpredictable whole, and Bartley’s blocking (that didn’t fall into the common “park-and-bark” trap) helped to ensure that the audience wasn’t bored or complacent.

Of course, the show could not go on without the technicians and designers, and the team assembled for this particular production was no exception. Abigail Reeves provided unconventional lighting design in the form of arches and overhead lighting fixtures. Bartley’s concept called for a traverse stage, which scenic designer Pedro Guevara gladly rose to the challenge of creating the set for.

Andy Killion’s sound design served cosmopolitan Russian nightclub vibes, and some highlights of his sound design included the Russian translations of “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift and “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish.

As a whole, the Northwestern State University of Louisiana Theatre and Dance Department’s production of “The Government Inspector” made for a side-splitting evening and an honest look at corruption in high places and deceit.