Shannon Holt, left, and Adam Hass Hunter in 'The Inspector General'… (Ed Krieger )
One percenters, hide those offshore accounts: Occupy LA—or something a lot like it—has been spotted at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center. The corruption of the privileged few is the comic target of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector,” now in an exuberant if overstated new adaptation by Oded Gross.
We open on a scene that sounds suspiciously like a city council meeting in Bell: Mayor Anton (John Billingsley) alerts his cronies (Joe Fria, Alan Brooks, and Dana Kelly, Jr.) that their well-lined pockets are at risk. Seems a government inspector is headed their way to expose bad government--and he’s traveling incognito. The men panic, but the news stirs the hearts of Anton’s bored wife (Shannon Holt) and his Grimm-obsessed daughter (Megan Goodchild), dolled up for Prince Charming. (The eye-popping costumes are by Tina Haatainen-Jones.) Cut to Khlestakov (Adam Haas Hunter), a lazy narcissist heading home to shake the family tree for cash, with capable servant (Eileen T’Kaye) in tow. When Anton mistakes Khlestakov for the covert watchdog, rubles and sexual favors are exchanged freely. Let’s just say Snow White drifts.
Director Stefan Novinski pushes his nimble cast towards a broad performance style, with mixed results. Gogol wrote a farce, but Gross’s political jibes can feel glib, and the show is on stronger footing with its character comedy. Brooks’s overweight bureaucrat and the Palin-esque Bible-thumper Alina (Sara Hennessy) share a hilarious if brief romance (He: “You taste like candy.” She: “You taste like Jesus.”) T’Kaye grounds the most outrageous events with credibility, and Hunter doesn’t shy away from his character’s unsavory turn.
The songs for this world premiere adaptation are straightforward “I Want” anthems, but in the hands of the deft Fria and a deadpan Goodchild, they defy their predictable origins. This co-production between the Theatre at Boston Court and Furious Theatre Company is ambitious and timely, though its high-spirited satire works best embedded in story, not easy slogans.
“The Government Inspector” Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 North Mentor Avenue, Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Additional performance 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug 22. Ends Aug 26. $34. Contact: (626) 683-6883 or www.bostoncourt.org Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
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