Red Bull Theater Company at
The Duke Theatre & New World Stage

Broadway, NYC

The Government Inspector

Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan
Run extended through Aug. 2

The Red Bull Theater Company hits the bulls-eye with a revamping of Nikolai Gogol’s classic comedy.

Click here for production photos...

Those dog days of summer have arrived when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. So why not get out of the sizzling heat for a couple of hours and go see the Red Bull Theater Company’s new production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, splendidly revamped by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Jesse Berger (the Artistic Director of the Red Bull Company), this parody of bureaucracy is as relevant now as the day that Gogol put pen to paper.

The play is about corrupt politicians who fret over the undercover arrival of a Government Inspector. Before they can figure out his whereabouts, an out-of-towner who’s a low clerk impersonates the Government Inspector and manages to bamboozle everybody in town. The plot turns and twists as the local politicians outdo each other to curry favor with the supposed high-level official. Spoiler Alert: There’s an extra twist in the plot structure in the very last scene that arrives like a sledgehammer.

The current production, which opened in mid-May at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street transferred eight blocks uptown to the New World Stages on July 6th. On the July evening that I attended the show, the house was full of theatergoers of all ages. Who ever said Gogol was old hat should eat his hat during intermission in the New World Stage lobby.

Don’t expect anything but excellence from the cast. Michael Urie leads the cast and turns in a terrific performance as Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, the fake Government Inspector. In the early reviews for the show, Urie was lauded for his incredible physical comedy and for chewing the scenery par excellence. No hype. Urie is gloriously absurd as the protagonist who would be Government Inspector.

Urie’s not the only actor on stage, however. Happily, there’s a solid ensemble that know how to be hammy in their own right. Just watch Michael McGrath as Anton Antonovich, the Mayor of the corrupt town. McGrath’s Antonovich is the epitome of an elected official who abuses the power of his office without batting an eye. Mary Testa as the Mayor’s wife Anna Andreyevna, shows that being the First Lady of the town clearly has its perks and temptations. Testa can do more by arching an eyebrow than a dozen other actors with their whole body. Talene Monahon, as the Mayor’s daughter, is smart and manipulative but gets her comeuppance at the denouement. A shout out to Arnie Burton who plays the role of the Postmaster and Ivan’s loquacious servant. While he never upstages Urie, Burton delivers a pair of performances as Postmaster and the servant that deserve applause.

The creative team are in synch. Alexis Distler’s two-level set is doubly delicious and endlessly resourceful as the play proceeds. Megan Lang and Peter West’s lighting makes sure that the underhanded goings-on come into plain view. And Tilly Grimes’ period costumes are a visual confection.

If you have never seen a staged production of The Government Inspector, drop what you’re doing and head to the New World Stages to see this rib-tickling revival of the classic. Berger, and his company, have hit the bull’s-eye with this reimagining of Gogol’s masterpiece.

Through August 20th.

At New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, Manhattan. (click for Google Maps page in new window)

Phone 212-947-8844 or visit

Running time:  approximately 2 hours with one intermission.

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