It’s an extended sequence that stamps Urie as a sterling stage clown and graceful physical comedian, an actor with the ineffable ability to keep us tantalized about what comes next. That center-stage intelligence and charisma bode well for the mammoth assignment he takes on in Washington in January, as the revenging Danish prince in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s longtime artistic director — and Urie’s acting teacher at Juilliard — chose Urie to be the final Hamlet of his tenure with the organization, a term of office that ends after the 2018-19 season. These circumstances offer tastes of why “Hamlet” is destined to be a marquee event next winter for Washington theatergoers.
Urie is the hub of director Jesse Berger’s crackerjack revival of Gogol’s 19th-century satire, but what makes the production by off-Broadway’s Red Bull Theater so memorable is that his performance is exquisitely matched to those of a slew of other well-cast jokesters. Among them are Mary Testa, Arnie Burton, Michael McGrath, Mary Lou Rosato and Stephen DeRosa, who in Berger’s skilled hands (and Jeffrey Hatcher’s supersmart adaptation) turn Gogol’s jaundiced farce into a kind of Slavic “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Any of the leaden possibilities of Gogol are safely airlifted out courtesy of Hatcher’s buoyant script and a cadre of funny people — McGrath’s pompous mayor, Testa’s deluded mayor’s wife and Burton’s nosy postmaster being particularly merry achievements — who all know from experience how to spread the joy. (And, it seems, avert the obvious dangers of cracking themselves up.)
Set designer Alexis Distler cleverly stacks the rooms in which “The Government Inspector” takes place inside a gigantic two-tiered box, divided into segments like the panels of a comic strip. Costume designer Tilly Grimes herself goes to town, festooning these goofy Russian provincials in buffoonishly fussy gowns with frills and uniforms with sashes: The get-ups are as elaborate as the minds are simple.
The production has been so popular for Red Bull, a company known for the classics, that after an initial run in a smaller Midtown space it moved to a theater in the New World Stages complex on West 50th Street, where it continues until Aug. 20. It’s the kind of revival that one imagines could have transferred whole to Kahn’s own stages in Washington. (Berger was in fact Kahn’s assistant director for three seasons in Washington.) In any event, the prospect of Urie’s transfer alone is reason to celebrate.
The Government Inspector, by Nikolai Gogol, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Jesse Berger. Set, Alexis Distler; costumes, Tilly Grimes; lighting, Megan Lang, Peter West and Christina Watanabe; sound and original music, Greg Pliska; fight direction, J. David Brimmer; action movement coordinator, Rick Sordelet. With Tom Alan Robbins, Luis Moreno, Ryan Garbayo, Ben Mehl, Kelly Hutchinson, Talene Monahon, William Yuomans, James Rana. About 2 hours 10 minutes. $75-$95. Through Aug. 20 at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., New York. Visit telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.