Saturday, March 25, 2023
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The Government Inspector - Michael Urie & Mary Testa milk political corruption for all its worth

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

A provincial Russian town. 1836. Corruption is rampant. Cover-ups follow. Bribes disguised as loans (the new reimbursement program) flow freely. From the Mayor to the Judge to the School Principal to the Hospital Director to the Doctor to the very fey and nosy Postmaster who opens and reads everyone’s mail and then distributes the information.

Everyone is rightfully worried as it has been leaked that an Inspector has arrived incognito to infiltrate and unearth the rampant corruption.

This new, unnecessarily long adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher of Nikolai Gogol’s REVIZOR seems to have been penned with the Marx Brothers in mind. Director Jesse Berger has picked up the reins and directs the fine cast of actors at a full gallop.

The basic plot is clever enough but Mr. Hatcher goes off on tangents that are extended and extreme and the actors follow suit by going overboard in their performances. Characters become caricatures. Especially Bobchinsky (Ryan Garbayo) and Dobchinsky (Ben Mehl) straight out of a Mel Brooks sketch. The dialogue has plenty of bah-dah-boom! Borscht Circuit jokes that land like lead matzo balls.

The costumes by Tilly Grimes are splendid. The double decker set by Alexis Distler is interesting until one notes that if sitting up front one will have a stiff neck watching most of the production that takes place on the upper level.

In the lower level environment we discover the almost destitute Ivan (Michael Urie) about to commit suicide with the help of his servant Osip (Arnie Burton – who doubles as the Postmaster). And it is this Ivan who is mistaken for the incognito Inspector and taken under the wing of the Mayor (Michael McGrath) and his wife Anna (an amusing Mary Testa) and treated royally.

Anna aims to be alluring and fashionable in her lovely pink frocks. She has an odd way with the French language. And has one of the funniest lines in the show. I kept thinking about the late Charles Ludlam founder of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company for obvious reasons.

Michael Urie could fool a cow. He is charming and handsome and falls right into going along with the charade. But he becomes tedious in the Act I finale of “toasting” and getting drunk by drinking glassfuls of wine and vodka. I half expected him to break out and sing “Goodbye” Prince Cherney’s Farewell from “Little Me.”

In Act II he does croon a tune to the Mayor’s sexually repressed daughter (the lovely Talene Monahon) reminiscent of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” – Groucho’s old standby.

It’s all a bit overboard. They all try too hard. Broad humor yes. Doors slamming yes. Mayhem abounds with fine performances all around especially that of Mary Lou Rosato. But it is ultimately underwhelming and overstuffed.

Through June 24th at The Duke 229 West 42 Street. Tickets 646 223 3018 x 8. 2 hours 1 intermission.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

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