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‘The Government Inspector’ offers timeless humor

Poster+for+the+upcoming+%26%238220%3BThe+Government+Inspector%26%238221%3B+play+on+display+in+University+Hall.+Image+by+Valentina+Valderrama+Perez+%2F+Sports+Writer.

Poster for the upcoming “The Government Inspector” play on display in University Hall. Image by Valentina Valderrama Perez / Sports Writer.

Giggles and laughter stream from University Hall’s Theatre as students prepare to present “The Government Inspector;” UMass Boston Performing Arts Department’s play for Spring 2023. The show presents both bribery and corruption in a small Russian town during the 1830s. The absurd circumstances the characters end up in, and the inherent comedic grace of the students who bring them to life, ensure that any time inside the theater is guaranteed to make you chuckle.

The show is focused on the town of Mayor Anton Antonovich and his wife, Anna. Mayor Antonovich, played by Bobby Lovett, is an opulent and indifferent leader to the circumstances of his town. In turn, Anna, played by Samantha Stanley, regrets marrying the mayor due to the circumstances it has led her to.

In between laughs, Stanley shares that Anna “used to live this sophisticated lifestyle, but then she married the mayor, moved into the town with him and it just went downhill from there.”

Stanley says that Anna is in anguish and “when Khlestakov comes in, it’s sort of like a glimpse into the life that she could have, and she wants to get it as soon as possible.”

Stanley noted that the costume department is key in representing the characters’ desires. She shared details on Anna’s two costumes: a home dress, representative of early nineteenth-century style, and a special “hot pink, gold trimmed, gown of a dress” to impress Khlestakov. The dress highlights her abrasive despair for his attention. Thinking about the dress Stanley smiles widely and says “it’s so great. There [are] fake flowers and tassels. It’s beautiful. I love it.”

Stanley also explained that they often “recycle items from past shows. They take old dresses and old gowns, and we use those materials to make new lacing […] I know they work hard fitting everything and putting together these great costumes. Taking something old and making it into what we have now is amazing.”

The complicated actions of the play begin when the iconic duo Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, interpreted by Melisa Cepeda and Megan Geslin respectively, encounter Khlestakov.

Khelstakov, played by Jesus Rodriguez, is an outsider and used to behaving in line with a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Rodriguez described Khlestakov as “a spoiled rich kid whose father said he’s not going to give him more money. Basically, he is now broke, but just happens to have a string of luck” once he arrives to Mayor Antonovich’s town.

Geslin noted that Dobchinsky, along with Bobchinsky, are not as concerned with the arrival of Khlestakov as Anna. She said with a grin “we care about food, drama and food again. Food is primarily on my mind. I notice other problems that are going on—I’m very nosy and love the drama—but they don’t pertain to me.”

Geslin describes herself closely with her character because she, along with the rest of her castmates, has taken time to develop Dobchinsky’s character. They do this by analyzing what their age may be, their likes and dislikes and how these shape their interaction with other people.

“That way when you act, you can really sell that character to people. If you think of it as playing a part, then you’re not able to get into it.” For instance, Dobchinsky has a wide appetite. “I don’t say I’m acting like Dobchinsky. I say I am Dobchinsky and I like pork.”

Cepeda, the actor portraying Bobchinsky, added that “The Government Inspector” is a unique choice since it “is a period piece, but also a comedy […] a classic from another country which makes it much more interesting to do.”

Cepeda and Geslin concur that Director Fennimore is special in bringing the production to life. Cepeda recognized Director Fennimore as “fantastic to work with specially with comedic pieces.” Geslin, who took a turn in biology for some time, credited his class, THRART 265L: Acting for the Camera, as the pivotal point that helped her realize she liked theatre more than science. After graduation, Geslin looks forward to going into graduate school for acting and subsequently entering the television industry where she hopes to “make a change in people’s lives through productions.”

Geslin described the differences between biology and theatre by saying:

“Science is very fact based, like this is how it is and if you change it becomes another product. [It’s] very cutthroat like that. You have to learn it, memorize and it is what it is. There’s something very interesting in knowing the facts and being able to speak about scientific things. [Theatre] allows you to delve into the land of, like, the unknown. You’re able to take something that’s considered fact in theater and change it. It becomes whatever you want; anything that you say in a theater becomes fact.”

Rodriguez also has academic experiences unrelated to theatre, being a criminal justice major. He said the stage gives him an outlet for his energetic and dramatic personality and environment where he “can just be [himself] and just be kind of goofy.” Rodriguez highlighted that watching a theatre performance is more realistic than watching movies or TV shows since the audience experiences the events as the cast and crew produce them in real time.

All members of the cast and crew who were interviewed shared that they really want the UMass Boston community to come see the production. Stanley jokingly said right now there is not much reaction “from the stage management who has seen the show twenty times and a bunch of backpacks.”

Several other cast members agreed that the audience brings energy to the stage and now that they have their practice down, they are ready for students to come in and enjoy a good laugh.

Geslin added it helps the actors keep going “because you want to put a smile on someone in the audience’s face” and it helps those who come and see it because “we are in a world where, like, technology is everything, but when you enter the theater you have to turn off your phone and remove yourself from whatever’s going on outside of the theater doors […] When you enter the theater, it is like a new world, being able to laugh and like connect to people on the stage without, like, anything else in the way.”  She encouraged students who come to the show to “look at every single character. There’s little stuff that people do, that if you are only looking at the person talking, you’ll miss. You must look at the reaction of other people’s face to get the real humor of the scene.”

The play ends after a revelation at the hands of the postmaster performed by Amaya Levens. After asking Levens what her feelings are when she breaks the news, she said “everybody has their own individual reactions to [the revelation] and it’s worth seeing them, so I think my biggest [feeling] is honestly excitement.”

Levens recognized the inherent humor of the show when it was first introduced last fall and encouraged others to bring the words to life. “I kind of prepared for this show by trying to get other people on board,” she said.

“The Government Inspector” brings a sense of exaggerated pretentiousness and extravagancy to the stage which makes the play affluent in humor. Comedy is the favorite genre of Director Michael Fennimore, who has directed plays for the UMass Boston community for over two decades, with the English version of “The Government Inspector” by Jeffrey Hatcher being on the director’s mind for a long time. Once it became available, he quickly chose it for this semester. The play, originally written in 1836 by Nikolai Gogol, also struck a chord for Assistant Stage Manager Leo Khomiakova. After hearing the title, Khomiakova immediately chose to be involved as a part of the team, fulfilling their role in the backstage crew.

Khomiakova described “The Government Inspector” as a “classic of Russian literature, which is often characterized as being sad and depressing. While there is a lot of that, there’s also an incredible amount of gut-busting comedy with everything from intricate wordplay to Charlie Chaplin style antics,” adding that, “it’s important for any theater to perform plays from a variety of playwrights and backgrounds, and it’s really cool to participate in a production of a dang authentic Russian play.”

“The Government Inspector” will be showing at the University Hall Theatre on March 29, 30 and 31 as well as April 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m, with matinee performances on April 1 and 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at umb.universitytickets.com.

About the Contributor
Valentina Valderrama Perez, Features Writer