Student revamps the inspector

What do you get when you take a classic Russian play, transport it to a setting in the American Wild West and let a Northern Kentucky University playwrighting student give it a massive revision?

You get the freshly-updated “The Government Inspector,” written by Nikolai Gogol and adapted by Junior Jonathon Pernisek. The comedy will mark the close to NKU’s fall season and follows the story of corrupt officials in a dusty Western town who hear a government agent is being sent to investigate them. At the same time, they learn a suspicious stranger has been staying in local hotel for the past two weeks.

The play is about government dishonesty and human greed, director Mike King said, both issues, he notes, made timely by recent events in American politics.

King said while the show is respectful to the spirit of Gogol, Pernisek’s adaptation “gives a contemporary accessibility to the audience with echoes of ‘Monty Python,’ ‘The Naked Gun’ and that kind of zany humor.”

Pernisek and King have worked on the script since spring ’06. Through the summer months, they looked at different translations of Gogol’s play, but decided they needed something fresh and up-to-date.

“Previous adaptations had a certain dustiness to them,” King said, “but Jonathon really ran with it. He based characters on Gogol, but the dialogue is Jonathon.”

Pernisek, who also plays “Postman Smitty Simpson,” said adapting the show while simultaneously performing in it presented some unique challenges.

“When you take off the writer’s hat and put on that of the actor,” he said, “it can be confusing to look at your own script. You’d think it would be easy to figure out just why my character is speaking at a certain moment, but you literally find yourself thinking, ‘Who wrote this? What does this even mean?'”

And while “The Government Inspector” may sound like an incredibly dull name, Pernisek admits that “the show it represents is practically insane. Men trapped in boxes, crazed gun swinging, sexual kink highlighted by the use of fruit; it’s all here.”

The show runs Nov. 30 through Dec. 10 in the Corbett Theatre with performances Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.