Princeton, NJ – “The Gods of Comedy” descends on a college campus in Ken Ludwig’s riff on Greek mythology.

The plot centers on Daphne (Shay Vawn), a university professor who is studying in Greece. When she returns to campus, her colleague Ralph (Jevron McFerrin) says he’s found an original manuscript from Grecian times. He asks her to take care of it while he rushes off to tell the dean. But when Daphne leaves her office, the janitor Aleksi (George Psomas) arrives. He accidentally drops the manuscript in the waste basket. Thinking it’s trash, he shreds a couple of pages. When Daphne returns, she can’t find it and does her share of screaming and screeching about its loss. She doesn’t know where to turn, but somehow calls on the Gods of Comedy, Dionysus (Brad Oscar) and Thalia (Jessie Cannizzaro) to help her out. They  magically appear and later disguise themselves as college students.

Meanwhile, Dean Trickett (Keira Naughton) is planning a fundraiser for the college and thinks the manuscript will be just the ticket to raise money. She’s also invited a former student, Zoe (Stephanie Leigh), now a movie star to plump up enthusiasm. Leigh is delightful as the sexy star and, at one point, dos a riff on several Broadway musicals.  

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Act II gets even more complicated as the God of War, Ares (Psomas, again) more or less woos Zoe. When the dean asks what he does for a living, he replies something like ‘carnage and rape.’“Oh, you’re a banker,” she replies, which is probably the funniest line in the play.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s all rather convoluted and forced. The actors work hard to keep this show afloat, but should we be conscious of those efforts? Ludwig is a fine playwright, with such hits as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” This one, however, seems more strained than light hearted. Director Amanda Dehnert has built on the comic moments, but it still seems overwrought. Costumes by Linda Roethke are flamboyant and scenic design by Jason Sherwood shifts effectively from a cluttered home office to a leafy college campus. Lighting by Brian Gale and sound by Darron L. West add to the special effects.

Performances of “Gods of Comedy” continues at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton through March 31. For tickets, visit mccarter.org.