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New Adaptation of Gogol's "The Government Inspector" Blazes With Hilarity

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Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play The Government Inspector has been much adapted, from film versions such as The Inspector General with Danny Kaye and an episode of Fawlty Towers to recent theatrical adaptations by Jeffrey Hatcher, David Harrower and Roddy Doyle. Now playwright Oded Gross has presented his version, and happily, it shimmers with brilliant wit. The new co-production of the show by Furious Theatre Company and Theatre@Boston Court adds to the riches with a truly amazing ensemble that provides some of the finest comedic acting one might see all year.

In a small town in Tsarist Russia, the mayor, Anton (John Billingsley), and his corrupt officials (Joe Fria, Alan Brooks, Dana Kelley Jr. and Sara Hennessy) get word that a government inspector will shortly be visiting them incognito to make a report. Desperate to save their jobs, they try to figure out who the inspector is and mistakenly fixate upon the vainglorious wastrel Khlestakov (Adam Haas Hunter) as a likely suspect. They ply him with food and drink and bribes as the actual inspector in disguise watches and compiles damning testimony.

Billingsley is accomplished and sly as Anton, always blustering about how much he does for others as he ultimately looks out for himself. Kelley Jr. has a ball choicely flinging derogatory jokes at an overweight colleague, and Brooks is very funny as that haplessly food-obsessed official. Fria shines as the cheerfully goofy Ivan, delivering non sequiturs with expert panache, and Hennessy is fiercely amusing as a Sarah Palin-esque aide with ever-increasing nose injuries.

Hunter steals the show in a gloriously over-the-top turn as the selfish Khlestakov, but is almost matched by the equally fabulous Shannon Holt, whose twitchy, bitchy turn as the mayor’s unfaithful wife Anna is a go-for-broke treasure. Jacob Sidney is impressive as the local doctor, delivering half of his lines in German and getting full comedic value regardless. Megan Goodchild displays a lovely singing voice as the mayor’s fairy-tale-obsessed daughter Marya, and Eileen T’Kaye excels as the sole voice of conscience as the servant Osif.

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Director Stefan Novinski stages the show masterfully and gets magnificent work from the entire ensemble. Gross not only keeps the zingers flying with deadly accuracy, he also includes parallels to our current political scene without derailing the original play, and he penned some appropriate songs as well. It’s an impressive achievement. Donna Marquet’s mayor’s office set is airy and opulent, and Tina Haatainen-Jones’ wildly colorful costumes add to the sense of genial craziness.

“The Government Inspector” plays at The Theatre@Boston Court through Aug. 26. Tickets are available online.