Nikolai Gogol had a very short career as a writer (only 10 years) and in this time wrote three very important plays “The Marriage”, “The Gambler” and “The Government Inspector.” This last play was by far his most successful, controversial and best known work. Completed in just two months in 1836, The Government Inspector was written during Tsar Nicholas the Firsts time in power – a time of government sanctions against anything or anyone that displeased them. Amazingly enough, this play, which could be described as a farce criticizing the Russian government, and perhaps the Tsar himself, was approved for performance by Tsar Nicholas himself, who was reported to have laughed uproariously at the treatment of government officials and of himself! But Gogol was dissatisfied with the interpretations of his play, which he deemed to be rather a commentary on mankinds’ loss of spirituality.
The play refuses to be labelled – it is certainly a comedy, but it necessarily provokes laughter through tears – a sort of uncomfortable laughter as we recognize the characters we see on stage. The play brings us characters that seem to sacrifice real human values in favor of avarice and self-advancement. This does not mean, however, that any of the people portrayed are evil or vicious – they just are as they are. They are, on some level, innocent because this is how things have always been done. The character of Khlestakov, the “government inspector” (mistakenly taken for such) does not play along with the mistaken identity because he is bad, but because this is what he does. The impersonation of a government official is thrust upon him by the collective fear and guilt of the officials…and we all know what happens when fear and guilt are the driving factors in the world.
There is a popular Russian saying, that Gogol quotes: “If your face is twisted, it is no use blaming the mirror”. We can hold up the mirror, but ultimately our face is our face – and this is what Gogol seems to be saying.
Directed by Joey Chavez and Barbara Hatch
34 NMSA Theatre students are involved in the production, from actors, to designers, to stage managers, technicians, dramaturge and assistant director.