Nov. 2 2011 12:00 AM

When two couples clash, brutal laughs result in Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s ‘God of Carnage’


We seem to live in an age when uncouth behavior is
showcased and celebrated across the reality-TV spectrum — and audiences
can’t get enough of it. It’s clear there is fun to be had in watching
people behaving badly. That is exactly what director Chad Badgero is
counting on.

Badgero is at the helm of “God of Carnage,” the pointed
comedy of manners from Peppermint Creek Theatre Co., opening Thursday.
Of course, the troupe is billing it as a comedy of manners — without
the manners.

 “We’re all so
wrapped up in this idea of political correctness, but this looks at
what bubbles under the surface of that,” said Badgero, Peppermint
Creek’s founder and artistic director. “We all have things we want to
say but don’t.  What happens when we do?”

Yazmina Reza’s play begins with a seemingly innocuous
premise: Two sets of Brooklyn parents meet to discuss a playground
altercation between their 11-year-old sons. An evening that begins
under a banner of diplomacy quickly spirals into unpleasantness as
tensions flare and facades crumble.

“The genius thing that (Reza) has done is to show how
they all start off very adult — very polite, very refined — but by the
end they’re behaving exactly like kids themselves,” Badgero said.

Reza wrote “Carnage” in French, which is how it was
performed in its initial stagings in Zurich and Paris. The play was
translated by playwright/screenwriter Christopher Hampton (“Les
Liaisons Dangereuses,” “Atonement”) for its London premiere, which
starred Ralph Fiennes. The 2009 Broadway production, starring Jeff
Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, collected
Tony awards for best play and best leading actress in a play (for
Harden). The feature film adaptation, which stars Jodie Foster, Kate
Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, opens in December.

The Peppermint Creek cast stars Blake Bowen, Heather
Lewis, Allan I. Ross and Shannon Rafferty, and Badgero praises the
actors for tackling such heated but humorous material

 “They’ve really grasped and enjoyed the concept in rehearsals.  They really all push each other to a nice, fun extreme.”

Although the behaviors on display are often unlikeable, the director doesn’t think of the characters as bad people by any means.

 “The way they
break each other down is surprising — you’re definitely shocked by some
of things they say to each other,” he said.  “But they’re just ordinary parents.  Good parents — just very different parents.”

Badgero thinks that despite such pointed subject matter,
“Carnage” will offer audiences a chance to see a lighter side of
Peppermint Creek, a troupe known for tackling frequently serious and
controversial material in its shows.

 “It is thought-provoking, but it is really very funny,” he said.  “It
doesn’t get darker so much as it gets ruder, more crass, more unguarded
as it goes on and brings on the laughs. I’d certainly say it’s brutal —
the truth can be brutal to take and absorb.”

’God of Carnage’

Through Nov. 12

Peppearmint Creek Theatre Co.

Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., Lansing

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6

$15 adults; $10 students and seniors.

(517) 372-0945