The words of director Mitchell Thomas hang in the audience’s consciousness throughout Westmont’s production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector: “Let’s work to make this play less relevant to the future.” Hear hear. Westmont’s hilarious production gets a round of applause for being painfully relevant, delightfully ridiculous, and just plain fun — especially for anyone in agreement with the playwright’s conclusions about human foibles leading to government corruption.
The people of a rural town in the Russian provinces get wind that one of the czar’s government inspectors will be coming to audit their administration. He’ll be incognito, of course, so there’s no confirmation of his identity. It’s distressing news to the town’s officials, since everyone from the mayor to the postmaster is on the take. Floundering panic overtakes these conspicuously buffoonish characters, especially when a newcomer is noticed skulking around the local inn. He’s concluded to be the inspector, and the town’s officials start aggressively buttering him up — by bribing him to keep their sins a secret. Too bad the “inspector” is actually a wayward loafer with an empty trust fund on the walk of shame home to his father who, as the town’s elites start offering him hush money, is more than willing to play the part to collect as much cash as possible.
It’s con on con in this little village, whose deliciously odious public servants illustrate ambition turned avarice running rampant through an administration. The comedy is lively and youthful, and the cast commits to the physical humor, emphasizing the ridiculous nature of the corruption machine. Regardless of personal political views (anarchists excepted), most people can get behind the message of this play as it relates to our current government: Chaos is fun, but stability and trust in competent elected officials is better. Let’s work to make this play less relevant to the future.