Actors perform Russian and political comedy

Senior Caitlynn Tomlinson rehearses her lines as a town squire in “The Inspector General” at the George S. Lindsey Theatre. “(The play is) a farce making fun of government in general and all of its obvious stereotypes, like being corrupt, untrustworthy and not very good at their jobs,” said senior Edwin Huertas, who plays the mayor.

By Entertainment Beat Writer Hillary Taylor

UNA’s Theatre Program will bring laughter and comedy to the George S. Lindsey Theatre with its presentation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Inspector General” starting April 6.

The story begins with the mayor of a rural town receiving word of a government inspector coming for an investigation.

When a mysterious man named Khlestakov appears at an inn, the town attempts to hide all political corruption with bribes and deceit as hilarity ensues, not knowing that the man is not the anticipated inspector general.

“It’s a farce making fun of government in general and all of its obvious stereotypes, like being corrupt, shady, untrustworthy and not very good at their jobs,” said senior Edwin Huertas, who plays the governor.

The play pokes fun at the greed and self-absorption of every culture, said David Ruebhausen, associate professor of theatre and director of the play.

“You can’t help but watch ‘The Inspector General’ and realize it doesn’t matter when or where it takes place,” Ruebhausen said. “It could happen in any country at any time in any small city, and the politics (are) the same.”

Huertas said the play presented a challenge for the actors and director in finding a way to translate some of the Russian sayings and jokes.

“The translation does a fine job, but a lot of the language is cultural jokes that we would never hear,” he said. “So, the challenge is figuring out how we get the jokes to make sense and pronouncing the Russian names. This forces us to accept our characters’ lines, even if they make no sense.”

Huertas said this role has the most lines he has ever had to learn.

Sophomore Eric Bjork, who portrays the “greedy” Khlestakov, said performing in a comedy presents its own challenges.

“There is a lot of physicality with these characters,” Bjork said. “Sometimes I’m having to jump, fall or hide in my suitcase, and these movements have to be done in a certain way to make the joke. With shows like this, it has to be well-rehearsed or someone could get hurt.”

Despite the subject matter, Ruebhausen said the play is not meant to be more than a lighthearted comedy.

“Since the Greeks, social commentary has always been a part of comedy,” he said. “You’re supposed to watch these characters do bad things and think, ‘Hey, don’t do these bad things,’ but ‘The Inspector General’ is, first and foremost, entertainment.”

The audience should be laughing at the characters, instead of with them, Huertas said.

“The play shouldn’t be taken too seriously,” he said. “The audience should enjoy themselves.”

Bjork said he hopes the audience has an entertaining experience.

“A lot of art is controversial, but because of that people tend to forget to enjoy themselves,” Bjork said. “This play is ridiculous and an all-around good time, and we just want people to have fun.”

Performances will be April 6 – 8 and 11 – 12 at 7:30 p.m. and April 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for UNA students, faculty, staff and alumni.