In Ludwig’s ‘The Gods of Comedy,’ Mt. Olympians mingle with New Jerseyans

In Ludwig’s ‘The Gods of Comedy,’ Mt. Olympians mingle with New Jerseyans

One of the world’s most produced contemporary playwrights, Ken Ludwig says he enjoys having the luxury of writing about “the things I love and think about.” In his case, that means classical literature and theater, religious mythologies, history and human relations.

In his latest work, “The Gods of Comedy,” which is premiering McCarter Theatre Center, expect to see all of Ludwig’s beloved obsessions showcased with a decidedly humorous touch.

But that’s not to say Ludwig’s works don’t have depth. “The Gods of Comedy,” he said, is a play about hope.

“I try to move the ball forward in terms of building community, in terms of seeing we’re all alike and we need to support each other,” Ludwig said in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “I try to instill a feeling of goodness in humanity, that we’re all in this together, and if we put one foot in front of the other, the sun will rise and the sun will set and we’ll forge ahead together and not be defeated by the pettiness and darkness around us.”

This is the fourth work Ludwig has premiered at McCarter, joining “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” “A Comedy of Tenors” and Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Directed by Amanda Dehnert, “The Gods of Comedy” is largely set in the Classics Department at Princeton University. A female professor worried about her job and her love life asks the ancient Greek gods for help.

But it’s not Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, or Aphrodite, goddess of love, who answer her call. Instead, Dionysus, the god of wine, and Thalia, the muse of comedy, are the immortal beings who descend from Mt. Olympus to suburban New Jersey.

The premise is perfect for Ludwig – a two-time Olivier Award-winner perhaps best known for “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Crazy for You” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” He is the reigning American master of farce, a style perhaps perfected by the Bard in his “The Comedy of Errors.” Farce calls for physical comedy and quick-witted dialogue as well as improbable situations fueled by misunderstandings, mistaken identities and mental hijinks.

Brad Oscar, the two-time Tony Award nominee who plays Dionysus opposite Jessie Cannizzaro’s Thalia, said the play is “crazy and random and absurd in all the ways that farce should be. … It’s a very positive place.”

“Ken’s created a bunch of slightly crazy, passionate characters who are larger than life and all have a problem they have to solve. He celebrates our follies, our mistakes and that we are human. Even the gods are human,” Oscar said. “We realize that just as they have (humanity in them), we all have a little bit of god in us. We all have the potential for greatness and the ability to make the world a better place.”

THE GODS OF COMEDY

McCarter Theatre Center

91 University Place, Princeton

Tickets: $25-85, available online at https://www.mccarter.org. March 16 -31.

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at nataliepompilio@yahoo.com. Find her on Twitter @nataliepompilio. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.

Published at Tue, 19 Mar 2019 15:43:34 +0000