Jeffrey Hatcher’s spirited adaptation of Russian author Nikolai Gogol’s play “Revizor” is broadly staged by Jesse Berger with hilarious results in this Red Bull theater presentation. The cast is wonderfully up to the uproariously funny satire on government dishonesty, and you can read what you will into making modern comparisons even though the farce is set in 1836 in a provincial Russian town.
Michael McGrath is steadily funny as the corrupt, blustering mayor, Anton Antonovich, who goes into a frenzy when he gets word that an investigating government inspector is in town. There is urgent need for a cover-up of the bribery that abounds in running everything from a hospital with rooms so small that beds don’t fit in them, a school where the teachers are totally inept and a postal system with a mailman who reads everybody’s letters.
The central joke is that Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, a preening, debt-ridden failure who talks daily of suicide but looks in the mirror and egotistically fixes his hair before balking at pulling the trigger of his gun, is mistaken for the expected inspector. Michael Urie as Ivan gives a gloriously comic performance and is a show unto himself. His long drunk scene in which the mayor schemes to get him intoxicated and amenable to bribes is side-splittingly hilarious. Urie is a comic genius whether verbally or with his gift for slapstick requiring deft use of his pliable body.
Ivan easily takes to enjoying all the money shoved at him and the fawning flattery that boosts his ego, ultimately reveling in putting one over on the dishonest lot who have mistaken his identity.
Mary Testa makes the most of playing the mayor’s haughty wife, Anna, whom her husband denigrates as being dressed like “a lamp shade in a whorehouse.” She flirtatiously gets hot for Ivan, but so does her competitive daughter, Marya, played by Talene Monahon with comically deadpan determination to make Ivan woo her into submission with song and poetry.
The entire company deserves much praise for providing the ensemble merriment, including Arnie Burton, Mary Lou Rosato, Tom Alan Robbins, David Manis, Stephen DeRosa, James Rana, Luis Moreno, Ryan Garbayo, Ben Mehl and Kelly Hutchinson. There is some doubling of roles, always smoothly, and the cast members are attired in the amusing period costumes designed by Tilly Grimes.
Set designer Alexis Distler has cleverly created a two-tier playing area, the upper one serving as the mayor’s home, where much of the plot unfolds.
Much credit should go to director Berger, whose vigorously over-the-top staging, with cast members who skillfully immerse themselves into the broad comedy concept, gives an audience a rollicking good time. At The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 West 42nd Street. Phone: 246-223-3042. Reviewed June 4, 2017.