The comedian, actor, songwriter, and playwright Oded Gross has done a marvelous (to include quite funny) job of updating Gogol’s classic satire of bad government: The Government Inspector. I will get right to the new text, near the beginning, when the officials of a small town realize that a government inspector is coming.
ARTEMIS (The Director of Health): What does he want to inspect us for?
ANTON (The Mayor): He’s traveling here to deem whether or not there’s any unnecessary corruption.
AMOS (The Judge): That’s absurd. Unnecessary corruption? Here? All our corruption is absolutely required!
ANTON: Of course it is. You can’t lead people without being a little corrupt. Anyone who says otherwise has never been in government.
IVAN (The Director of Communications): But this high ranking official is being sent by the government. Our government. Surely they know we must be corrupt. . . .
ARTEMIS: We’ve done nothing wrong.
IVAN: I agree.We’ve been put into a position which requires us to bend our morals, act unethically and go against everything we believe in. Should we not be compensated for that?
ARTEMIS We’re merely pawns in a corrupt system. . . .
ANTON: We are pawns. Of that you can be sure. Tasked to do the impossible. Our job requires us to act in the best interest of the many, but in order to keep the job we need to take money from people who’d rather we act in the best interest of the few.
ARTEMIS: How can we possibly reconcile that?
ANTON: We promise to many but deliver to few.
AMOS: For which we can hardly be faulted. It’s the nature of the beast.
IVAN: We do profit considerably. Can we be faulted for that?
AMOS: Hardly! We’ve been put into a position which requires us to bend our morals, act unethically and go against everything we believe in. Should we not be compensated for that?
Gross’s adaptation, which premiered in Boston several years ago, was recently given an excellent staged reading at New York’s Pearl Theatre, and it is hoped that the play will get a full staging here soon. Two more nice moments in the play:
ANTON: This Inspector General is brilliant. He is deep under cover and the role he is playing is that of a paranoid, volatile, degenerate, not someone you’d ever consider as a high powered government official. . . . And his agitation towards me is an obvious message. He’s bent on taking me down. I’m not sure what to do.Whoever thought misinterpreting the Bible could be useful in government?
ALINA (A wealthy landowner, quoting Romans 12:20): The Bible says “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
ANTON: Of course. Whoever thought the Bible could be useful in government agenda? . . .
ALINA: Whoever thought misinterpreting the Bible could be useful in government agenda?
Later in the play this theme returns:
ANTON: Alina. I hope you won’t judge me too harshly, but I intend to offer this man some money.
ALINA: A bribe?
ANTON: It will seem like a bribe in that I will give him this money in exchange for his favorable judgment of our district. . . .
ALINA: Sometimes in order to do good, we must do a little bad.
ANTON: Does it say that in the Bible?
ALINA: It is inferred.
In our present pass, we need more plays like this.
— Wm. Eaton, Zeteo Editor
Credits & Links
Photo by Lloyd Mulvey shows actors Gibson Frazier (playing Anton) and Zoe Winters (playing Alina) in the Pearl Theatre’s staged reading of Oded Gross’s The Government Inspector, January 2015; directed by Lucie Tiberghien.
Gross has written several songs to go with the play. The first has a slight Brechtian cast (something always welcome here).