“The Gods of Comedy” is a thoroughly divine farce

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A scene from
A scene from "The Gods of Comedy" at McCarter Theatre.

The latest at McCarter is fast. It’s funny, and it’s not going to be around forever

The McCarter Theatre Center has had a long and fruitful association with playwright Ken Ludwig. Over the past four years, McCarter has been the home of three world premiere productions: Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery; A Comedy of Tenors; and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Now Mr. Ludwig is back with his latest humorous creation, The Gods of Comedy. Let me cut to the chase: It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s not going to be around forever, so go see it!

A scene from "The Gods of Comedy" at McCarter Theatre.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.

Daphne (Shay Vawn) is a workaholic college professor doing research in Greece when she saves a life of a young boy. In gratitude, his father (George Psomas) gives her a talisman which, if she is in dire need, will summon the Greek gods to assist her. Back home, she misplaces a priceless manuscript discovered by another professor, Ralph (Jevon McFerrin). In her panic, she uses the amulet, and — TA-DAAAA! — the Greek gods come to her aid. Except the gods who appear are Dionysus (Brad Oscar), god of wine, revelry, and theatre, and Thalia (Jessie Cannizzaro), the muse of comedy. Their assignment from Zeus: give Daphne an adventure and a happy ending — or else. Mixed into this stew are the college’s dean (Keira Naughton), immigrant janitor Aleksi (George Psomas), movie star Brooklyn (Steffanie Leigh), and god of war Ares (George Psomas). Toss together with a mythologically-themed costume ball, mistaken identities, mismatched romances, chases, and a touch of divine magic and you have a recipe for comedic pandemonium, providing plenty of laughs to go around.

A scene from "The Gods of Comedy" at McCarter Theatre.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.

Under the sharp direction of Amanda Dehnert, the cast sparkles. Leading the fun is two-time Tony Award nominee Brad Oscar in a role that seems tailor-made to his comedic strengths. The rest of the case is also excellent. Special credit goes to Jessie Cannizzaro’s enthusiastically theatrical Thalia; Shay Vawn’s frantic, hyper-responsible Daphne; and George Psomas as three totally different and fully realized characters.

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A scene from "The Gods of Comedy" at McCarter Theatre.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.

McCarter’s design team transforms the stage into an outdoor street scene in Greece, Daphne’s quarters, and an outdoor terrace at the college. Credit for this is shared by scenic designer Jason Sherwood, lighting designer Brian Gale, and sound designer Darron L. West. Jim Steinmeyer’s illusion designs are magical fun. Linda Roethke’s costumes are a fine mix of contemporary design, costume party fun, and garb fit for the gods.

A scene from "The Gods of Comedy" at McCarter Theatre.
A scene from “The Gods of Comedy” at McCarter Theatre.

In times like these, a good comedy can be an antidote to outside agitas. While this might not be the perfect comedy, it is a very fine example of Ken Ludwig’s way with humor with an off-the-wall touch. You can’t go wrong by spending an evening in the company of The Gods of Comedy before they have to head back to Olympus!

The Gods of Comedy is presented by the McCarter Theatre Center at the Matthews Theatre on the campus of Princeton University through March 31, 2019. For tickets and information, visit mccarter.org.