The Southern Miss Department of Theatre will present “The Government Inspector,” its final play of the fall 2013 season tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Martha R. Tatum Theatre.
The play is based off an adaptation of Russian writer Nicolai Gogol’s work, “The Inspector General.”
It takes place in 1900 and tells the story of officials in a small Russian town who are expecting a visit from a government inspector. Instead, they discover the supposed government inspector is not who they think he is.
“A corrupt, small town government mistakes somebody, the wrong person, for a government inspector who might be inspecting their voracity and the way they treat people…and comedy ensues,” said Lou Rackoff, director of the play.
According to Rackoff, the play is a satire on how individuals inhabit institutions.
“[Gogol] was attacking the way things are governed, he was attacking immorality in government,” he said. “Individuals who make mistakes or cross the line in the wrong way.”
“He was doing this through humor, which we all know, if you look at something like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ is a way of going after the way people behave,” he added.
Rackoff read about 10 different adaptations over the course of a few weeks and said the department chose it partly for educational reasons and partly because of the ending.
“One was [we wanted] a big classic comedy,” he said. “Another [was] the issue of a certain style for students to work on. This kind of comic style, which is satire, almost farce, is very difficult to perform cause it requires incredible comic timing. It requires the actors to play real characters that the audience believes in, who do silly things.”
“It does have the famous ending, where things are revealed,” he added.
Rachael Swartz, a third-year master of fine arts acting candidate, plays Anna Andreyevna, one of the leads in the production.
“She’s the mayor’s wife, so clearly part of the whole corruption process,” she said. “Anna has always reaped the benefits of her husband’s efforts within the community.”
“She has her own prerogative in what she wants out of this inspector,” she added. “She notices he’s just about the right age for her single daughter so there’s a lot of conniving involve there. Of course it would be quite convenient for her family if there was a marriage into the capitol and being able to move there and live the life.”
Swartz said the cast runs the age gamut and is one of the larger ones she’s worked with in her time at USM.
“It’s a huge cast [and] we’ve had a really good time, it’s hard not to,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see everybody working together toward the common goal.”
She added that the rehearsal process has been fun but challenging.
“A big part of our rehearsal process is tightening the exchanges between characters and making sure those fall one after the other,” she said. “Once you get on stage, it’s certainly a fast ride until the end of the show. There’s no real time when we pump the brakes.”
Bailey McClure is a third-year master of fine arts scenic design candidate and “The Government Inspector” will serve as her final creative project.
“I’m over the entire scenic design of it,” she said. “I’ve been working on this since May.”
McClure said it took months to figure out her eventual design, but that this production will have a more theatrical look than the time period calls for.
“It was a lot of playing with different images with different shapes, levels where I want to put things where I don’t want to put things,” she said. “There’s elements of Russia and that time period, which is 1900, but there’s also a little bit more of the theatrical style to it. It’s not nearly as realistic or what we would consider realistic.”
Swartz said that even though this production is set in the 1900s, it’s something that’s a part of our lives.
“I think a lot of people get intimidated when they know that shows aren’t set in 2012 or 2013 or 2005 even,” Swartz said. “And they think ‘oh man, it’s old so it’s boring and its not relevant to my life.’ But it’s a comedy about corrupt politics and I think that just about anybody could relate to that.”
Performances will be held Nov. 14-15 and 20-22 at 7:30 p.m and Nov. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for the public, $10 for faculty, staff and military and $8 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at 601.266.5418 or visit southernmisstickets.com.