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With ‘The Government Inspector,’ corruption is the name of a very funny game

We’ve all been there: You’re stuck in a never-ending line at a government office. You’re fighting with your credit card company on the phone. You’re buried in paperwork at the bank. You don’t have the right connections, so you don’t get the job, or your kid into the right preschool, or the best assignment at work.

Pictured above: Randall Kohlruss, center, plays a corrupt mayor in ‘The Government Inspector.” Photo: Hypo-Theatricals

Nikolai Gogol’s play “The Government Inspector” has been making people wince — and smile — at its depiction of institutionalized corruption ever since he wrote it in 1836. Now the newly renamed Hypo-Theatricals (formerly known as Simpson Theatricals) is presenting an adaption by Jeffrey Hatcher geared for modern times. It opens Thursday, May 23, at the California Arts Academy Severance Theatre, for four performances and one weekend only. Here are 10 Things to Know:

1. It’s set in Russia.

Here’s how director Dakota Simpson describes the storyline:

The corrupt officials of a small Russian town, headed by the Mayor, react with terror to the news that an incognito inspector will soon be arriving in their town to investigate them. The flurry of activity to cover up their considerable misdeeds is interrupted by the report that a suspicious person has arrived two weeks previously from Saint Petersburg and is staying at the inn. A wild, farcical romp through dim-witted Russia. (And there’s a tasteful amount of satire toward our own Commander-in Chief.)

2. You’ll recognize the lead actors.

Randall Kohlruss, most recently seen as the D’Ysquith family in Selma Arts Center’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” tackles the role of Mayor Anton Antonovich. Justin Ray, who recently played the title role in Hypo-Theatricals’ “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” plays Ivan Helestekov, the inspector. The company (including Ray and Kohlruss) is comprised of 13 actors all doubling and tripling (sometimes even quadrupling) roles.

3. It’s a comedy.

Simpson didn’t want to go all Kafka on us. He chose the show because he had just finished directing “Gentleman’s Guide” in Selma, and he wanted to something with the same style of humor and wit — but perhaps with a little more meat on its bones.

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“So, in searching, I found this delightful piece, sat some actors down for a reading and fell IN LOVE with the content,” Simpson says. This show allows audiences to reflect on themselves and the world they live in while also laughing their butts off along the way.”

4. If you’ve personally experienced corruption or a stultifying bureaucracy — and most of us have — this play is for you.

The way Simpson sees it, corruption has many forms. Much of stems from an Old World mentality in a New World. And bending from that way of life can make someone snap

“I have worked and studied with many professionals in the Central Valley and of course I have dealt with corruption. From teaching in schools where my curriculum is on the firing line everyday, to artistic individuals in positions of power who are rash and spiteful simply because, they are granted such liberty.”

5. This play broke the mold when it was published.

D. S. Mirsky, in “A History of Russian Literature,” notes that the great originality of the play consisted in the absence of all love interest and of sympathetic characters.

“The latter feature was deeply resented by Gogol’s enemies, and as a satire the play gained immensely from it,” Mirsky writes.


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6. Hypo-Theatricals has big plans.

The company is “slowly planting its roots as a theater company,” Simpson says. The change in name was intended to promote more of a collaborative view. “Not like I am the monarch of a theater company. We are slowly taking the steps into theatre company … hood!”

The Hypo-Theatricals new Facebook page, with the ensemble’s new season, will be launched with the commencement of “The Government Inspector.”

7. Local theater needs audiences.

Let’s give Simpson the final word:

I am incredibly excited to put this piece into the community. These actors have been working countless hours (and many sleepless nights of tech rehearsal) to put this product into the community! Without you the patrons we are merely performing for the birds atop St. Therese church on Wishon.


Show info

‘The Government Inspector,’ opens 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23, California Arts Academy Severance Theatre. Continues 8 p.m. Friday, May 24; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25; and 8 p.m. Sunday, May 26. Tickets are $15 general, $10 students and seniors.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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