Monday, April 8, 2024

"God of Carnage" at Theatre in the Round

Next up in Theatre in the Round's 73rd season: the "people behaving badly" dark comedy God of Carnage. There have been several local productions of the 2009 Tony winner, most recently by Dark & Stormy in 2022. But this play that I've called "a tightly wound, intense, darkly hilarious four-person play about what happens when our baser natures come to the surface" is worth another visit. These people don't get any more likeable, if anything the reveal of their inner natures is even more vile with each passing year, but Theatre in the Round has assembled a great cast, and their in-the-round staging brings something unique. This play shows us what happens when people say the quiet part out loud, which maybe should have stayed quiet. See it now through April 28, and be prepared to laugh, cringe, and maybe even uncomfortably see yourself a little in these people.

God of Carnage plays out in real time over 90 minutes or so in the Brooklyn apartment of Veronica and Michael. They have invited another couple, Annette and Alan, over for a civilized discussion after an altercation between their sons. It seems the latter's son hit the former's son in the face with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. They meet to discuss what to do about it and how to resolve the situation. But of course it's not really about the children, it's about the parents, and as the time goes on (and coffee gives way to rum) they each let down their pleasant company facade and let the truth fly with all the ugliness that often entails. Conflicting parenting styles and world views collide, as alliances between the four are made and broken. Needless to say, they don't ever get around to solving their children's problem, and instead find they have even bigger problems to deal with. The reason this "people behaving badly" play works is that each of the characters has humanity and depth, so that maybe you can empathize with one or more of them for a moment, even as you're horrified by their words or actions. Because being human is messy, and most of us don't have things figured out as much as we pretend to.*

Mia Josimovic, Kendra Mueller, Michael Postle, and D'aniel Stock
(photo by Aaron Mark)
Alissa Blaeser directs the excellent four-person cast, bringing out all of the comedy and cringey-ness of the script. As the insufferable Alan, constantly on his circa 2009 Blackberry, Michael Postle fully embodies the one you love to hate. Kendra Mueller expertly allows Annette's prim and proper facade to slowly fade as she reveals the rage inside. D’aniel Stock's Michael seems like the more reasonable husband, until he lets his true feelings out. As the artsy Veronica, Mia Josimovic is all peace and love, until everything falls apart.

The usual setting for this play is a chic apartment with a couch, coffee table, and a couple of chairs. Theatre in the Round sets that in the center of the round, with a bar, side table, and cubbies along the edges. It looks put together, but with evidence of children in the toys and gear neatly stashed away. As usual they make good use of the space for all angles. The costumes help inform the characters: Annette and Alan more conservatively dressed, Veronica and Michael more boho chic. (Set design by Michael Haas, costume design by Sarah Christenson, and prop design by Sadie Ward.)

God of Carnage is always good for a dark cringey laugh at these horribly behaved humans, until we realize maybe we're not that different. But hopefully we know how to behave better in front of people. See it at Theatre in the Round in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis now through April 28.