The busiest person in The Old Globe's production of Yasmina Reza's black comedy God of Carnage has to be whoever cleans up afterward. As the French would say, for this play was originally La Dieu du Carnage, "Quelle disaster!"
The premise is innocent enough: After one 11-year-old boy whacks the other with a stick, doing dental damage, the parents of the kids get together to politely hash out the reparations. Soon the conversation degenerates into chaos. Discussing becomes arguing. Talk becomes tantrum. We get it: The parents are the real children.
In spite of this obvious revelation, God of Carnage, directed with abandon by Richard Seer, is outrageously funny once it finds its momentum. As the story calls for the two couples to start out wary but cooperative, the play's first 15 minutes or so have little more than Alan's (T. Ryder Smith) annoyingly intrusive cell-phone calls for tension. But once his wife, Annette (Caitlin Muelder), whom he calls "Woof-Woof," vomits what has to be a world-record vomit, all civility goes out the window. Hosts Michael (Lucas Caleb Rooney) and Veronica (Erika Rolfsrud) are not only cleaning up; they're trying to clean each other's clock—that is, when they're not going at it with Alan and Annette. Throw in some potent rum, a "murdered" hamster and enough self-righteousness for a tent revival and you've got what Michael calls with exasperation a "psychodrama."
The vomiting scene is a minor marvel of special effects. No one and nothing are spared, including Veronica's prized art books on the coffee table and the until-then cheery glass bowl of tulips atop it. (Those tulips, it turns out, are also destined for carnage.) The post-puking cleanup duty, complete with hair dryer, is more hilarious than what preceded it, though just as queasy.
Three of the combatants are portrayed by graduates of The Old Globe / University of San Diego masters program: Muelder, Rolfsrud and Rooney, whose throwaway lines and vacillating self-control make Michael the most entertaining of the foursome.
This local premiere of a play that was a hit on Broadway (in 2009) and later a film directed by Roman Polanski is a crash course in adult misbehavior. Accent on "crash."
God of Carnage runs through Sept. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Almost, Maine: Love is explored in nine separate vignettes set in a mythical town. Presented by Copacetic Theatre, it's staged one night only on Aug. 10 at the Victory Theatre in Grant Hill. facebook.com/ CopaceticTheatre
Wrinkles: A New Old Musical!: A song-filled day in the life of three couples who are wrinkled. Opens Aug. 8 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatersandiego.com
See How They Run: This World War II-era farce, set in Britain, takes the mistaken-identity device and runs wild with it. Previews begin Aug. 10; opens Aug. 17 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
An Iliad: Homer's epic poem about the Trojan War is adapted, using contemporary language, into a oneman show by actor Denis O'Hare and director Lisa Peterson. Opens Aug. 11 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Fiddler on the Roof : It's 1905, and Russian milkman and father Tevye just can't get hip to the modern world. Through Aug. 11 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Dames at Sea : A young Utah woman arrives in New York with dreams of stardom and then— voila! —becomes one. In between, there's singing and dancing. Extended through Aug. 12 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
La Cage Aux Folles : Bronze celebrity George Hamilton stars as Georges, a gay nightclub owner who, with his drag-queen wife, concocts a ruse to satisfy his son's fiancée's conservative parents. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through Aug. 12 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Much Ado About Nothing : New Village Arts stages Shakespeare's classic rom-com and sets it in the time just after World War II. Through Aug. 12 at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad. Free tickets available each night at 6 p.m.; $20 for reserved seats. newvillagearts.org
The Music Man : A con man aims to scam the good folks of River City in the musical that brought us the timeless tune, "Shipoopi." Presented by Patio Playhouse, it runs through Aug. 25 at Kit Carson Park Amphitheatre in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Man of La Mancha : Don Quixote dreams the impossible dream, or so Miguel de Cervantes tells us, in this classic musical. Through Aug. 26 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.com
God of Carnage : Two sets of ill-behaved parents fight over their sons' altercation in a park in this darkly comedic play, which originated in Switzerland and was adapted by Roman Polanski into the 2011 film Carnage . Through Sept. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women : The evolution of women's roles in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Extended through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza. lyceumevents.org
Inherit the Wind : The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes "monkey trial," at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Richard III : King Edward IV's malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England's throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare's history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
As You Like It : If it's a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
miXtape : Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Once Upon a Wedding : Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com
Crime Pays : A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net