Greek mythology comes to life on the OST stage
It was a perfect choice for author Ken Ludwig to name his play “The Gods of Comedy”. It’s a pun for a story with more references to the Greek gods than the average viewer can follow.
A synopsis for the play is that a couple of college classics professors are obsessed with finding a missing Euripides manuscript. They find him, lose him, are aided by several Greek gods as they seek to locate him and along the way find their day filled with more than a little adventure.
When the Greek comedy gods Dionysus and Thalia appear, that’s when the show gets funny – and when the title makes sense.
Stephen Brotebeck is running the show – his third of the season – and he once again proves he’s a master of casting. Without the charm and wit of Dionysus and Thalia, the show wouldn’t be so successful. Brotebeck has his characters all over the stage – above, below and around – and understands that in this particular story, there is no “too much” drama.
The first scene starts off a bit slowly as the play is introduced by the traveling merchant Aristides on the Greek island of Naxos. His interlude with a model airplane and a globe explaining the professors’ trips to the United States is very clever and well done.
During the second scene, Dionysus and Thalia make their appearance with a daring “ta-da”, a puff of smoke and a handful of confetti, and from there normal life becomes an adventure.
Professional actor Kyle Montgomery and student actress Allison Belsan make a formidable match as these two gods of comedy. From Broadway song and dance numbers to head cheer routines and various impressions, they play out on each other and keep a great energy going throughout the show. They also do a great job of improvising and maintaining character so that the audience’s laughter subsides.
Lauren Peck as a college professor and expert in Greek mythology Daphne also brings the scene to life. While she is initially shy and happy with her writing, she comes alive as soon as the missing manuscript is discovered, and even more when it disappears.
She adds athleticism and physique to the piece, doing somersaults and hand jumps in various positions and climbing on and on furniture. She’s especially funny when she thinks she’s invisible.
His colleague Ralph is played by Tyler Okunski, who has proven his versatility in three very different roles this season. In “Gods of Comedy”, he goes from reserved teacher to confident author while imagining himself to be a famous screenwriter.
The dean of the classics department is Riley McGregor while the famous actress Brooklyn is played by Sevanah Portillo-Weiss. These two each have a scene where Dionysus and Thalia have “taken over” their character. Difficult to explain, but well done by both.
Garrett Wier plays the role of Aristide at first, as well as that of Alexsi, the guardian of the Russian campus and later the Greek god Ares. He masters three distinct characters and accents, although the privileged and sulky Greek god is perhaps the least agreeable.
The costume designer is student Briann Johnson, assisted by Makayla Rice. What a pleasure to be able to dress the ensemble with such diversity – from tourists to university professors to the Greek gods. Also watch a few local references.
The lighting and sound effects of the show are dramatic and energetic. Ares repeatedly calls out the thunder and lightning from his father Zeus, and receives a response in the form of dramatic lighting changes and rumblings from afar. There are many light signals as the scenes unfold in the room. The lighting is designed by Roe Woolf and the sound by Mickey Orchard.
Three distinct scenes are masterfully created by set designer Gretchen Ugalde: a street cafe on the Greek island of Naxos, a university library and a courtyard on the central campus. A canopy of trees unites them all, but the transformation of the scene in a matter of minutes is astonishing.
You don’t have to be a connoisseur of Greek mythology to appreciate this spectacle. But an appreciation of literature and good writing certainly helps.
That and the desire for a little adventure. This show serves that to a good extent.