PUBLISHED: 5:22 PM on Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Classic Russian farce given new Alaska backdrop
DOUGLAS - When a government official is sent to clean up a corrupt small town, the townspeople know what they have to do: find the inspector, find his price and slip him some cash. Of course, it's not that simple, especially if the wrong person gets bribed.

Chaos ensues in the farce "The Government Inspector" by Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol, which will open Sept. 12 to kick off Perseverance Theatre's 30th season.

Katie Spielberger photo
  The Mayor (Dan Reaume, center) gets in the middle of a fight between Jean Dobsky (Christina Apathy, left) and Gene Bobsky (Flordelino Lagundino) over how to entertain the "Government Inspector" during his visit to their small, corrupt town.
The play is the older than any other play Perseverance will put on this year, but the comedy is as fresh as it was 170 years ago.

"This is a play that was written in 1837 and yet it feels like it was written last year," said director Emma Griffin, who has come from New York to work on the production. "It reads to me like a prototype of a Marx brothers comedy, with the political wit of something that John Stewart would have put together."

Art Rotch, Perseverance Theatre's new artistic director, chose this play thinking it would appeal to Alaskan audiences, especially during this political season. Rotch remembered the play from a graduate project he had seen in New York, in which a colleague named Jessica Trejos was designed the play set in Talkeetna. Perseverance's production is set in an unnamed town "somewhere between Fairbanks and Siberia" and Trejos is costume designer for the production.

"I knew when I was looking at our season that this particular play about this subject would translate to Alaska well," Rotch said. "It's really topical. What I love about it is everyone has a price. Nobody is perfect. There is no hero. I think Russians understand that the world is just out of our control and the best thing we can do is just laugh at it."

He added that the play has "one of the best surprise endings in the theatre."

Rotch asked Griffin to come direct, knowing her knack for overblown comedy and farce. It is her first visit to Alaska.

"I was excited to come work here," Griffin said. "Perseverance is a theatre that everyone who works in theatre knows about and wants to come work at."

She knows of four other theatres around the country performing "The Government Inspector" this year, which is unusual for a classic play.

"There is something about this play that is striking a chord with Americans. It's satisfying a thirst," Griffin said. "There isn't really a clear-cut hero. There isn't an answer. It really embraces the chaos that can happen. I think that's something people really respond to."

Comedy may be the best way to address political themes in the theatre today.

"It's like the Charles Ludlum quote, 'If you're going to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh or they'll kill you," Griffin said.

Pay-as-you-can preview performances will be held Sept. 7, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. Opening night is Sept. 12 and the play runs through Oct. 5.

Friday and Saturday performances are $27 for adults, $22 for seniors and military with valid ID and $17 for students 18 and under or with a university ID. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and matinee performances are $22/$17/$12.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 463-TIXS, online at or in person at Perseverance Theatre at 914 Third Street in Douglas.