Three Adaptations by Morris Panych
The universal mark of good satire is still to make audiences laugh at the worst traits in human nature. Here, in his own words, is how Morris Panych updated these three great comedy classics from a century ago: The Government Inspector is peopled with the most duplicitous, under-handed and shifty characters ever to appear in literature; yet, they are funny. “I made the lead character Khlestakov and his companion Osip former members of an acting troupe, to open up the fourth wall of the theatre. Inspired by Gogol himself, who has the characters speak to the audience directly in the last scene, this is not really a post-modern indulgence, but part of a long theatrical tradition of direct audience address.
“There are certain literary subjects that hardly change over time; sex isn’t one of them. Take Viagra and cosmetic surgery, for example. These are fertile subjects for absurd comedy particular to our time. With Hotel Peccadillo, I wanted to play up, but also comment on the notion of hypocrisy as it relates to infidelity—the play was written a hundred years ago, without the hind-sight of Feydeau’s own death from syphilis. To that end, I made the author the landlord of his bordello—to include him in the farce, to heighten the irony.
“In changing Schnitzler’s The Amorous Adventures of Anatol from a 1902 Austrian play to a 2007 Canadian one, the most important decision I made was to have all the female characters played by one actress. Because of this, the audience becomes complicit in a casting trick: knowing that for Anatol, all women are the same. While it’s a truism that much as people appear to change throughout history, their essential human nature does not, in this play Anatol becomes the only victim of our elaborate theatrical illusion.”