Gods of Comedy: Amusing the Mortals at South Park Theatre

Reviewed by Dr. Tiffany Raymond, PhD 

South Park Theatre brings Ken Ludwig‘s Gods of Comedy to the stage. This rompish affair pairs Greek gods with mere mortals, and hilarity ensues.

Daphne Rain (Amanda Weber) is a type A classics professor on a summer trip abroad to Greece. As thanks for a good deed, she is gifted a talisman that supposedly calls the gods.

Director Ponny Conomos Jahn deftly handles a range of comedic moments. The play showcases both verbal wordplay and physical comedy. Jahn directs Weber to a nuanced expression that belies her disbelief in the talisman. Daphne politely accepts the talisman and promptly forgets about it…until a newly discovered original Greek manuscript under her care on campus goes missing. Desperate measures call for desperate times. Daphne grips the talisman, imploring the gods for assistance.

In a poof of fog, Dionysus (Tom Kolos) and Thalia (Carina Iannarelli) appear, much to the shock of the visibly stunned Daphne. Together, the gods unfurl and read from a scroll signed “Cordially yours, Zeus Almighty” that commits them to the task at hand. The rapport between Kolos and Iannarelli is collegial and fun, and Jahn engenders an easy, natural vibe between them that’s fitting for immortals who represent the longest of longtime colleagues.

As immortals, Dionysus and Thalia have a broad range of human experiences. Costume designer Julie Lang has them dress their parts, swapping on-arrival Greek robes for collegiate gear. Dionysus blends in a gray t-shirt that simply says COLLEGE. Thalia wears a pink sorority baby tee, an alternate representation of being Greek.

However, the “clothes don’t make the man” – a man or a woman. Given their sporadic engagement with mortals, the duo isn’t 100% accurate on being human, which often makes them inadvertent gods of comedy. Dionysus discovers the joys of “hambloggers,” and Thalia refers to herself as “eunuch” instead of “unique.”

Dionysus and Thalia also offer layers of historical context in humanizing historical figures we valorize. Thalia casually recounts that Shakespeare talked in his sleep, making you wonder if they were lovers. Dionysus mentions encounters with Euripides and F. Scott Fitzgerald; it’s the ultimate name-dropping.

Dionysus appears with Hemingway’s typewriter as he and Daphne collaborate on an interim substitute for the missing Greek play. Despite being a Greek god, the play reminds us being a native speaker does not automatically correlate to being a creative writer. Dionysus’ attempt to write a play within the play is full of variations on “woe” and “woeful,” simplifying tragic tropes. Daphne immediately upstages him as a Greek author. Dionysus’ woe-filled verbal diatribe connects him to Dean Trinket (Renee Ruzzi-Kern), who notes earlier in the play, “There’s nothing more woeful than the mind of a man.” As dean of classics, Ruzzi-Kern sizzles with saucy sexuality.

The quickly drafted substitute play isn’t the only play within a play. The classics department is hosting a Greek-themed party for homecoming weekend alumni. The gods take on other human forms to help resolve the case of the missing text, which triggers a series of comedic mistaken identities that continue to upset hierarchies.

Gods of Comedy has performances at South Park Theatre through May 20, 2023. Learn more and purchase tickets online at https://sites.google.com/a/southparktheatre.com/south-park-theatre

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