Ken Ludwig, the two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright, returns with his fourth world premiere at McCarter Theatre, The God’s of Comedy. It has big shoes to fill riding on the coattails of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, A Comedy of Tenors, and his adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Amanda Dehnert (Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery) returns to McCarter as director, once again teaming up with Ludwig.
A quick synopsis – Daphne (Shay Vawn) is a young American Classics professor. While in Greece, she is given an amulet from a local cart vendor named Aristide (George Psomas). Once back at the university, she is visited by Ralph (Jevon McFerrin), who was recently appointed head of the Classics Department. He located the lost Euripides play and asks Daphne to watch it. She leaves the office and returns to find it missing. Out of desperation, Daphne says aloud that she needs help and the Greek gods Dionysus (Brad Oscar) and Thalia (Jessie Cannizzaro) appear (thanks to the amulet). This is when the true farce begins. Rounding out the cast is Steffanie Leigh (Zoe/Brooklyn), Keira Naughton (Dean Trickett), and Psomas, who also plays Aleksi and Ares.
Amanda Dehnert meticulously executes Ludwig’s vision. Three scenes, seven actors playing ten characters, special effects, and sound effects are perfectly orchestrated to deliver a Broadway-caliber production. Once again, she demonstrates her ability to flawlessly direct comedy.
The set design is beautiful. It reveals a tourist location in Greece, a professor’s office, and the university’s campus. The details are impeccable and combined with lighting make the vivid colors pure eye candy. Equally pleasing are the costumes with flowing designs, bold colors, and dramatic flair.
This company as has perfected their verbal and physical delivery and have great chemistry with each other. It’s as if they have been working together for a year. Vawn and McFerrin are adorable together. You will root for their characters as they awkwardly interact with each other. Oscar and Cannizzaro playing the titular roles exude just the right amount of slapstick. There’s only one part of the script that seems a bit off and that’s when the custodian finds a book in the trash and doesn’t think twice that it might have accidentally fell in. But, it does help move the story forward.
Comedy is hard to write, yet Ludwig seems to have discovered the formula. A great script + farce + Ludwig’s secret sauce = Master of Comedy! Part of that secret sauce is surrounding himself with exceptional talent – the director and cast. This also includes McCarter’s extraordinary crew, which is perhaps why he keeps returning to Princeton. Basically, whenever you hear Ken Ludwig is presenting at McCarter, just buy your golden ticket.
So, the question is, will Ken Ludwig’s ‘The Gods of Comedy’ make you laugh? No. It will make you howl. It is laugh out loud funny. Of course, each audience is different and some people are more conscientious about laughing too loud. It’ll feel better if you don’t suppress it, so let it all out. The Gods of Comedy will be great therapy!
Ticket Information and Performance Schedule
Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy runs until March 31 in the Matthews Theatre. Tickets start at $25 and are on sale online at mccarter.org, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton. The production’s running time is 100 minutes, plus one 15 minute intermission.