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Meet 'The Gods Of Comedy'

Two-time Olivier Award-winning comic playwright Ken Ludwig delighted Old Globe audiences with "Robin Hood!" and "Baskerville." Now he premieres "The Gods of Comedy." Actors Brad Oscar and Jessie Cannizzaro reveal the challenges and rewards of playing Greek gods.

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Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm worrying Cavanagh and I'm jade Hindman play right. Ken Ludwig has delighted Old Globe audiences with Robin Hood and Baskerville. Now he premiers the gods of comedy KPBS arts reporter Beth Ahca. Mondo speaks with actors. Brad, Oscar and Jesse. Ken Is Aro about the challenges of playing Greek gods.

Speaker 2: 00:20 Brad, you are starring in the globe, play gods of comedy. Give people a little idea of

Speaker 3: 00:25 what this play is about. This play is about what happens today when two of the gods of comedy come down to help out a, uh, a young student in need. And a, and Ken's inspiration was what would that be if, if, if God's actually came down in today's society and what kind of comic hilarity would ensue. So yeah, the play is basically, um, about what happens. We try to help out this poor girl who has misplaced a very important book, perhaps a very historic, a find of a, of a, of a play by your remedies. And so who do you play?

Speaker 2: 00:59 Yes, I play failure. She is the news of comedy and I do look at poetry. The A, the end professors, she cries out and saved me gods of ancient Greece. And then because she has a little little a charm with her, the guides of comedy appear. Um, so I, I play failure and um, Brad is dying and Isis and we are maybe not who her first pick would be. Um, but uh, as Brad says, many high jinks ensue, Ken Ludwig is a very inventive playwright. He did Robin Hood here and also Baskerville and there always seems to be kind of this clever staging and clever use of space. What kind of defines God's of comedy? Kind of, what is he playing with in this one?

Speaker 3: 01:44 You know, we don't have a lot of playwrights anymore who write for the stage in this way. This sort of classic romantic comedy, classic farce, you know, those kinds of plays that populated the theater for a very long time. The professional theater in New York, not so much anymore, but still thankfully regionally in places where people do want to go and just have a good time and be entertained in that sort of old fashioned kind of way. That is, um, probably more necessary now than ever to be able to go and escape and laugh and not have to deal with, uh, what's, what's going on in your daily life or the world. I mean, that's what theater should be, but this is a kind of theater that is true escapism in that way. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 02:24 Well it's so much fun about God's is either, is there, there's, there's these big magical elements, right there is, um, you know, snow falls from the ceiling and through the window confetti flies and doors fall off their hinges. Um, and then what Ken does also so brilliantly is, um, shows us what can be so magical about live performance and theater, which I ain't on parts of the play when we say we snap our fingers and we say that we're invisible and all of the actors on stage sort of go along with it and the audience goes along for the ride too. Um, so there's sort of these big giant spectacle elements and then also the smaller magic of just pure theater at pure theater magic, which is so much fun for us. And I think for the audience too. So what are the particular challenges of playing gods?

Speaker 2: 03:15 I think what's so much fun about playing gods, the Greek gods in particular are always portrayed as these are very human beings. They are huge and magic and, and, and they, you know, they live up on Mount Olympus on and are larger than life in so many ways, but in so many other ways, they're just like us. They're flawed, they're deeply, deeply human. They get emotionally attached to people and other gods and, and so it's been fun to kind of play with, with having these, the allowance to be larger than you are, but also be very fun and an n and human with your portrayal.

Speaker 3: 03:52 I mean it's so great to play a character that is pretty much going to only be defined by your imagination and, or you know, the work you do in the room with the director and the writer or whatever. And so because these characters represent certain ideals, all of the gods have there sort of a area of expertise, if you will. And because ours are so joyous and positive and all about comedy and living and wine and, and all of that stuff. Exactly. So, uh, as an actor then to create this character, uh, knowing that you have all of that to sort of pull from all of that that we have inside of ourselves. And so I think that for Jesse and I in rehearsal, you know, it was always about just bringing as much of yourself to the table as much of our comic ideas aren't Joie de vivre are, you know, the idea of what makes something larger than life because they do need to be, they are very human in many ways, which is great because I think there's, that's where the emotional part of the play lies.

Speaker 3: 04:48 That we are just as human and just as vested in what is happening in the story and trying to get this right and not screw up and make Zeus proud of us. That is part of our trajectory and that's very human. That's a very human emotion. But then, yeah, we also get to snap our fingers and be invisible. We also get to conjure up these crazy things or uh, uh, behave in certain ways that are a, yeah, a little wild and crazy and also rooted in a lot of great comedy. You know, Ken is a very smart man, so we look at the history of comedy, whatever that means. Going back to if we're talking about Lucille ball or a great stage comedians or whatever it might be, uh, to be able to have that fabulous Pu pu platter to pull from, you know, it was great. One of the things that's so fun about it

Speaker 2: 05:31 lays is they're very articulate and witty and, and have great dialogue, but there's also a lot of physical comedy and use of the, the space. What are the challenges or the rewards or what's fun about combining physical and verbal comedy together? Well, was so exciting was I sort of, you know, went back and watched a lot of old Marx brothers movies and, and you know, as he, as Brad's at Lucille ball and just submit the Great Dick Van Dyke, this great physical and incredible comedians. Danny Kaye, yeah. Watched all of these, these movies and old TV shows, TV shows for inspiration for that. Um, being able to be a, you know, as physical as you can be onstage yet as I am. So by the end of act one, I'm always so out of breath from running around. Um, if you got a real workout in, it's very, uh, it's very physical.

Speaker 3: 06:25 Well, there's nothing better than stage farce, good stage farce because again, it's an experience we all share together. So the audience is fully aware of that. The actors up there are indeed really running around and really doing what we're seeing. It's not a TV show or film where it's been cut to look any way we want it to look. We are up, they're actually physically going through the motions. Uh, the idea that you can create a situation, again, ideally based in some kind of truth, people just running around slamming doors isn't funny. People running around slamming doors because they're trying to escape or find someone or whatever. It might be that ideally it's fueled by something. And that's funny. It's great. It's a joy as an actor and especially when the, you know, the audience is taking the ride with you and you know, and of course to us that means hearing laughter, hearing that response. But when we're all in that together and that exchange of energy is going, there's just nothing like it. It's like being on a rollercoaster. It's thrilling

Speaker 2: 07:18 now because we can't show anybody a scene from this. Um, I'm wondering if each of you has kind of align or something that you feel really sums up or defines your character that you could just say so that people can get a sense of humor

Speaker 3: 07:31 you are, or what do we say that sums it up. What exactly? We are the gods of comedy. Tada. We always present ourselves with a big Tada. So I guess that says a lot into, yeah.

Speaker 2: 07:42 Well the one of one of your lines. Yes. At the end when I s I say, well, so what are you saying right here? Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3: 07:50 When I say life should be an adventure and if it isn't, go back and fix it.

Speaker 1: 07:54 That was Brad, Oscar and Jesse Canizaro talking about their roles and the gloves, the gods of comedy, which runs through June 16th.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.