For Owen Halstad ’21 and Roei Cohen ’21, rehearsals never really end. Even after they leave the stage, they continue practicing their lines and trying new comedic bits for their roles as the wacky twin landowners in “The Government Inspector.”
“It’s a 24/7 endeavor,” says Halstad, who rooms with Cohen. “All our scenes are together, and then we walk home from rehearsal and debrief. What if we did this next time? There’s so much positivity and brainstorming and a level of comfort. You’re also more willing to try things.”
Opening at Pomona College’s Seaver Theatre on Thursday, November 16, “The Government Inspector” was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the original play by Nikolai Gogol. Director Giovanni Ortega, assistant professor of theatre and dance at Pomona, describes the play as witty, smart and wildly satirical. Key to the chaos are the twins Bobchinsky (Halstad) and Dobchinsky (Cohen), who, through a case of mistaken identity, ignite a panicked cover-up of the town’s greed and corruption.
“As funny as the script is, so much of the comedy comes from the physicality,” says Halstad, a politics major who plays intramural baseball and pickup basketball and describes himself as a “goofball with very little shame.” “We’re in this farcical land that where everybody is over the top, which is so much fun to play.”
To denote the characters’ class status, Ortega uses a range of American dialects, including Standard American Pronunciation, which he describes as somewhere between British and American English (think Cary Grant). Dialect coach Nick DiCola worked with the students to hone their accents.
“In the town, there is a hierarchy—the mayor, a hospital director, merchants and servants—and they speak in totally different ways,” says Ortega. “The idea is for people to watch the play, maybe notice the differences when they leave, but to not think about it while they’re watching.”
“For an actor, anything that gives you more specificity is a gift,” says Halstad. “Roei and I get to play characters who speak in this wonderful, posh accent while they are saying some of the least substantive things.”
Halstad says he is looking forward to interacting with his next scene partner—the audience.
“When an audience comes in, you now have 300 new scene partners. It's a completely different dynamic,” he says. “Even if you're doing the same actions, so much of acting is intangible stuff where the stakes are bigger because if someone messes up there are 300 people watching. But, more importantly, when something goes right, you feel it, and once the audience starts making noise, everything gets heightened.”
For Ortega and the members of the cast and crew, the final rehearsals and short run of five performances make for an intense couple of weeks.
“Obviously, as actors, you wish you could perform every night,” says Halstad, who hopes to pursue acting after college. “But when you only have five performances, you go all out for each one. It’s a tradeoff. I think it’s great to have that high energy from the actors, and that there really is something magical about college and high school theater.”
Performances of “The Government Inspector” will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 15 through Saturday, November 17, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18 at the Seaver Theatre (300 E. Bonita Ave., Claremont). Tickets are $11 general admission and $6 for students, faculty, staff and seniors.