|Ken Ludwig's The Gods of Comedy at the McCarter
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Mar 27, 2019 10:30am | comments
The McCarter Theatre Center is now presenting (in association with The Old Globe) the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy through March 31.
Ken Ludwig is one of those geniuses who quietly goes about their craft, creating great theatre while not seeming to generate much obvious hero worship in his own country. Except perhaps at the McCarter, which has presented three world premieres of his work in the past four years: Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery; A Comedy of Tenors; and a stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. His newest play, The Gods of Comedy, benefits from a seasoned cast of theatre experts as well as a few actors relatively new to their profession.
The plot of The Gods of Comedy centers about a long lost but now found play called Andromeda, which will make the careers of the boring, young academic researcher and the equally boring female academic researcher he befriends. We meet them in Greece, and then follow them to a fictional university identified only with an “S” emblazoned on school pennants. In Act II, the beautiful Fall Homecoming set (created by Jason Sherwood) where the comedy concludes looks surprisingly similar to Princeton. Much drama about the play being lost and the measures leading to it being found (or, is it found?) is the driving plot of the play. Early on, the young professor is gifted with a magic charm which allows her to summon supernatural help from Olympus, and the ensuing shenanigans drive the action in The Gods of Comedy.
George Psomas seems to be godlike in his ability to morph into three different characters: Aristide the souvenir vendor and narrator to open the play; Aleksi, the custodian who plays a major role in the fate of the manuscript; and, most arrestingly, as Ares, God of War. As Ares, Mr. Psomas looks superb in his godly armor created by costume goddess Linda Roethke. We can understand why several women fall head-over-heels for this cutie-pie. Many of us did.
As the two bumbling Olympians, Jessie Cannizzaro was Thalia, Goddess and Muse of Comedy and Idyllic Poetry. She possessed great comic timing and real skill in physical comedy as she hopped, skipped, and capered about the stage to comic effect. Broadway star Brad Oscar was truly luxury casting as Dionysus, God of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness, fertility, theatre, and unbridled sexual ecstasy. A lot to live up to, and Mr. Oscar exceeded all expectations as Dionysus. Not only did he have most of the best lines, but his comedic skill ensured that they were delivered in the funniest, most madcap way possible.
Rounding out the cast were Steffanie Leigh as Zoe and terrific as the bombshell actress Brooklyn, who seduces the hapless nerd Ralph, played with comedic, nervous flair by Jevon McFerrin, a handsome young man who undoubtedly received some handsome genes from his father, Bobby McFerrin. Keira Naughton as Dean Trickett is a pro at comedic timing and looks terrific in the several knock-‘em-dead costumes she gets to wear. Shay Vawn is Daphne, whose story this mainly is as we see her go from overworked overachiever to hysterical professor, to virginal lover to finally being awakened by art and Dionysus to life and the realm of possibilities.
The Gods of Comedy may begin slowly, being mostly burdened by plot repetition and constant weeping and hysterics by Daphne, but it does build in Act II as the plot picks up speed and wit. Altogether, The Gods of Comedy is a fun, two-hour romp in the theatre.
The Gods of Comedy is now onstage at the McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Stage until March 31. For further information about this as well as the next play, Skylight, by David Hare, visit www.mccarter.org .