TR Robertson — Playwright Ken Ludwig could not have chosen a more perfect title for his play, “The Gods of Comedy”, currently on stage on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center of the Old Globe Theatre. The fast paced comedy will delight audiences with the fast paced humor, quick timing, a touch of slap-stick and the wonderful comedic pairing of the two leads, Jessie Cannizzaro and Brad Oscar.
Ludwig, a winner of two Olivier Awards, three Tony Award nominations, two Tony Awards, two Helen Hayes Awards, an honorary doctorate from York University and numerous other awards, has written a play that allows those in the audience a chance to escape the trials and tribulations of daily life and for two hours enjoy the work of one of America’s classic comedy theatre writers. He has written over 28 plays and musicals.
Photos by Jim Cox
The comedy’s story line centers around a young college teacher, Daphne, working in Greece on her thesis, who is given a special charm by a Greek trinket seller, after saving the life of his son who is almost hit by a car. Daphne has a colleague in Greece, Ralph, who is on the trail of a lost play, “Andromeda”, and feels he may have found the only existing copy of the play. Back in the States, at their college celebrating homecoming week and the arrival of college donors, Ralph asks Daphne to watch over the manuscript he discovered which will prove to be a big mistake on his part. Along with this a slightly pushy department head puts pressure on them to be prepared to deliver a presentation at the rally and while Daphne struggles to complete her translation for her tenure, all leading Daphne to cry out “Oh save me gods of ancient Greece”. With this, all the fun and chaos begins. The gods of Greece are sent to help Daphne and her troubles. They just happen to be Thalia, the Muse of comedy, and Dionysus, the god of the grape-harvest, fertility, religious ecstasy, ritual madness and theatre. Combine these two over-the-top Greek entities, a series of misadventures surrounding the disappearance of the Greek play and attempts to cover this up, switched identities, and total mad-capped occurrences and you have a comedic play that leaves the audience laughing through-out the evening.
To pull this off, accomplished director Amanda Dehnert and her production staff of Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood, Costume Designer Linda Roethke, Lighting Designer Brian Gale, Sound Designer Darron L. West, Wig and Make-up Designer Carissa Thorlakson, Illusion Designer Jim Steinmeyer, Choreographer Ellenore Scott and Production Stage Manager Alison Cote, have created an amazing series of set designs and an atmosphere on stage ranging from a small Greek street scene, to a college office that will become a playground for the Greek gods, and a beautifully designed park scene, all which will play a role in the antics of the actors and actresses on stage.
Once again, Tara Rubin Casting has assisted in bringing together an amazing groups of actors and actresses, perfectly cast for this play. Playing the shy college instructor, Daphne, who will explode out of her shell, is Shay Vawn, making her West Coast debut. Vawn is wonderful as she plays off of the comic antics of the Greek gods that make the invited appearance at her beckoning. Jevon McFerrin plays Ralph, the nervous, distraught college professor. Keira Naughton appears as Dean Trickett. Naughton is a veteran Broadway, Off-Broadway and television and film performer. Steffanie Leigh plays both Zoe and Brooklyn and is also a Broadway performer and television veteran.
Along with this talented cast are the standout performances of three additional performers who are central to the story. George Psomas stands-out performing three roles, all different and all unique. He is Aleksi, the Greek trinket salesman; Aristide, the university custodian who sets things in motion when he mistakenly takes the Greek play out as trash; and he is hilarious as Ares, the Greek god of war. As Aleksi, he has one of the most unique and humorous descriptions of a flight from Greece to the United States, using a long airplane prop and large world map on the stage curtain, as a large set change occurs behind the curtain.
Rounding out the cast and presenting outstanding, hilarious, clever performances are Brad Oscar as the Greek god Dionysus and Jessie Cannizzaro as the Muse Thalia. They play off of each other’s banter, their physical comedy is wonderful as is their timing and their facial expressions are as comedic as the lines they present. Make sure you listen carefully to everything said as the one liners come fast and furious. Zeus would be proud of these two as they would keep things light and laughing on Olympus.
Dionysus says, to Daphne, as gods, “We don’t create, we unleash” and laughter and a good time is certainly unleashed at The Old Globe with this play. “The Gods of Comedy” will be playing at The Old Globe Theatre, Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage until June 16th. Ticket prices start at $30.00.