Russian farce puts flawed humanity on trial


While theatre usually shows an audience its own flaws, this semester’s show in Anathan Theatre will go above and beyond to bring the grotesqueness of human flaws to center stage.

Since August, Franciscan University of Steubenville’s theatre department has been diligently rehearsing “The Government Inspector” by Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol.

The story, one of the most famous in world theatre, is a comedic farce that documents the lives of corrupt city officials as they try to hide their misdeeds from a mysterious government inspector. Little do they know that the mysterious “inspector” is really a con man they mistake for the real inspector.

The show, written in 1836, is a comedy of errors made humorous by numerous miscommunications, misunderstandings and disastrous happenings. It deals with themes of greed, corruption and political disturbances in mid-1830s Russia.

Monica Anderson, who holds a doctorate in theatre from Bowling State University, said she and her design team used German expressionism to tell the story.

“Expressionism is a distortion of the external reality to convey the internal reality,” said Anderson. “That was the guiding principle: to key in on the grotesqueness, the warped nature of these characters. We see that warping in the set, that skewing of perspective, and we’ll see it in the costumes as well.”

The story told also focuses on the vices of the community through its props, Anderson said. Props connected to vices, such as alcohol bottles and playing cards, will be larger than life to emphasize their significance.

The cast and crew are made up of a diverse group of students from all classes and majors. They have come together every Monday through Thursday since early September to pour life into this play.

“It’s a show that’s been a lot of fun to work on,” said Anderson. “Nikolai Gogol is a comedic master, but it’s also been a lot of work. … All the students have been working really hard.”

She emphasized that the play will come to life with an audience. “Ultimately, I think it’s a show that (the actors are) going to love performing. It’s one of those shows that’s as fun for the audience as is the actors.”

Freshman Thomas Bodoh, playing the lead as the Mayor, said he has enjoyed developing his role. “The Mayor is a people-pleaser, in the worst sense of the word. He wraps himself in layers of lies and false faces to get what he wants … By exaggerating these themes in the behavior and mannerisms of my character, I can help bring the corrupt little Russian town to life for the audience.”

Bodoh has found it challenging to know when to show his character’s inner fear and greed underneath the facade he puts on. “My job as an actor is to show the audience glimpses of the true corrupt nature of the Mayor beneath all the lies at very particular moments when anger or frustration breaks the Mayor’s facade.”

His vocal cords have also been tested. “(The Mayor) is an emotionally complex character, whose mood shifts with each scene and revelation,” he said. “I have the exciting chance to explore the passions of extreme anger, despair, disbelief, euphoria and fear all in a single play.”

Dozens of hours have gone into line-learning, practicing and, recently, full run-throughs of the show. The hours of redoing scenes over and over again are grueling but satisfying work, and the students are anxious for the rest of the university to see their hard work pay off.

“It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had,” said freshman Joshua Tennyson, who plays a messenger in the show. “I think people will enjoy getting away from everything to see what we’ve done.”

Performances will be held Nov. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. in Anathan Theatre on the ground level of Egan Hall.

Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors. Admission is free for clergy, religious and children under 12. Tickets may be reserved by calling 740-283-6245, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or bought at the door on a first come, first served basis.

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