Review: ‘Inspector’ is sadly clueless

Some of the Bay Area’s best comic actors appear in American Conservatory Theater’s new production of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector,” and, unfortunately, they’re not all that funny.

Although the translation and adaptation by Britain’s Alistair Beaton give the language in the play a slightly contemporary feel (words such as “slut” are included), the story of a 19th-century Russian town whose officials take extreme measures to please a visiting government inspector remains static in this two-hour, 45-minute show.

Program notes reveal that Gogol himself didn’t write the piece as a satire about politics, greed and corruption — he viewed it as an examination of a lack of spiritual values — even though that’s how it’s often been played since its premiere in Russia in 1836.

Director Carey Perloff takes that tack in this production, which suffers due to over-clowning on the part of everyone in the cast. Pushing too hard and playing too broadly, the characters simply are caricatures, and ultimately make little emotional impact.

The mistaken-identity plotline is simple to follow. The show opens with the town authorities gathered in a meeting as the mayor receives news that a big governmental official has arrived, unannounced, to conduct investigations into local matters.

Gregory Wallace casts the con man, Khlestakov, with a goofy tone and wears a simper.

The bumbling men and women who kowtow to him don’t fare much better. These typically excellent performers — Graham Beckel as the mayor, Stephen Barker Turner as the doctor, Anthony Fusco as the postmaster, Rod Gnapp as the minister of health, Dan Hiatt as the magistrate, Delia MacDougall as the director of education, Sharon Lockwood as the mayor’s wife, Amanda Sykes as the mayor’s daughter and Joan Mankin and Geoff Hoyle as landowners Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky — all look like they’re acting throughout.

The high points of the production are the excellent sets by Erik Flatmo and costumes by Beaver Bauer. The whimsical, off-kilter designs appealingly exemplify a world gone wild.

lkatz@examiner.com

IF YOU GO

The Government Inspector

Where: American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. most Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; closes April 20

Tickets: $17 to $82

Contact: (415) 749-2228 or www.act-sf.org

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Thousands gather in Washington on Aug. 28, 2020, in support of social justice and commemorating the historic March on Washington and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Have a Dream" speech on that date in 1963. Criticism of critical race theory coincided with widespread demonstrations.  (Jason Andrew/The New York Times)
Critical race theory: A brief history

By Jacey Fortin New York Times About a year ago, even as… Continue reading

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

A former inmate and a sheriff’s deputy are among the first four members chosen to serve on the newly created Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Years after fight club scandal, Sheriff’s oversight board takes shape

‘We want to promote law enforcement best practices’

More than a thousand people gathered in front of the California Capitol building to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order and demand that the state re-open on May 1, 2020. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Newsom blames ‘right-wing pundits’ for COVID surge

By Emily Hoeven CalMatters Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday placed the blame… Continue reading

Most Read