The cast of Theatre Three’s ‘God of Carnage.’ (Photos by Jeffrey Schmidt)

Theatre Three currently has two shows that make for unexpected companion pieces. With Valentine’s Day looming and its variants (anti-Valentine’s, Galentines, happy hour) the theater has two productions running that explore the beginnings of love and the breakdowns of relationships. Whether you want to try them as a barometer for your own Valentines, proceed at your own risk. 

The cast of Theatre Three’s ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ in Theatre Too. (Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt)

Continuing its tradition, Theatre Three brought back its popular production I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change in late January. Staged in its basement space Theatre Too, this version is directed by Alejandro Saucedo. He kept the show’s over-the-top vibe that examines the cycles of relationships through witty dialogue and catchy tunes, but he also painted it with queer strokes to update the normally hetero-only vignettes with some rainbow flair. 

This worked well in the show’s favor. The touches never felt like a declaration, but instead played with a nice organic flow. The same-sex pieces just had an added charm because of the shakeup. 

With its four actors, the show is an exploration of relationships that begin with the first date where the characters skip ahead to the breakup to the mix of a couple obsessed with their baby while their single friend just wants some wine. Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ show remains clever and funny since its inception in 1996 with subsequent updates. 

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Simply known as Man 1 and Man 2, Jonah Munroe and Kevin Matthew Solis both brought different strengths to the show. Munroe’s comic physicality was always fun to watch unfold. He expressed his different characters with hilarious nuances. Solis’ performance, while also animated, often felt more cerebral and he cleverly conveyed his characters’ idiosyncrasies through a variety of facial expressions that got all his messages across. Both had amazing vocals that were almost too big for the small space. 

Woman 1 and Woman 2 were played by Brett Warner and Samantha Padilla, both delivering a hefty amount of non stop laughs. Like Munroe, Warner’s movement and posture added to the comedy of her performance. Padilla has this ability to mix a dry wit with her humor and the result is always entertaining. 

Jaclyn Gonzalez Stapp and Andre Williams are understudies for the show. 

Cody Dry served as musical director where made the music as much a character and the chemistry between the cast with Dry onstage was exuberant. 

ILYYPNC looked at the stages of relationships with smart and outrageous humor delivered by the very able cast. Saucedo directed the show with a smooth flow and allowed his actors to go all in which gave the show exhilarating power. 

The show runs through Feb. 25. 

God of Carnage, Theatre Three, 2024

Where that show looks at love through laughs, on the mainstage, God of Carnage almost laughs at love. The comedy (dramedy?) also centered on four characters but hardly interchangeable ones. In this play by Yasmina Reza, two couples, both high-powered in their ways, discuss an incident in which the son of one couple hurt the son of the other couple. When they try to resolve the issue in a civilized manner, all hell breaks loose. 

Over the course of 80 minutes with no intermission, Christie Vela directed this sharp play with a deft hand at finding the humor in adulting and grown-up arguments. The actors are nary offstage but in the end, they all gave monumental performances that ranged from slapstick to high drama. The show’s drama devolved into a royal rumble and getting there was a thrill to watch. 

Annette and Alan, played by Lauren LeBlanc and Mike Schraeder, are one couple who have the accused son. He’s a high-powered lawyer who is constantly on his cell phone and loudly handles his business amid the company. She is dutiful and amenable to the goings-on until she breaks. Her sick episode was a highlight with special effects that go everywhere – I’ll leave it at that. 

LeBlanc and Schraeder had a nice chemistry as a couple coming apart at the seams. LeBlanc had the tension down pat as her character holds face until she has to drop the facade and ultimately stands up for herself. Schraeder was spot-on as the self-aggrandized white collar Mike, but also made him likable when he could have been easily despicable. 

Ethan Norris and Natalie Young played Michael and Veronica, she an author on the troubles in Darfur with a penchant for culture and he a hardware supplier. A bit more down to earth, they had their eccentricities as well and both actors played that mix convincingly. Norris’s Michael might be the most level-headed of the bunch but his range from calm peacekeeper to frazzled was dynamic. Young’s performance was unhinged glory. Even when the action was elsewhere, she gave her character subtle touches to watch for, but it was her facial expressions and outburst that were pure gold to watch. 

John Brody and Kally Duncan serve as the show’s understudies. 

Lauren Wheat’s set was beautiful to look at depicting a high-end interior of the latter couple’s home. The mirrored wall made a stunning backdrop but the living room was chic but lived-in with Tristan Decker’s lighting helping intensify the moods of the couples and times of day. 

A slight nitpick was the costuming of the men. For Alan as a high-powered lawyer, his suit never read high-end where Michael’s preppy casual outfit looked fashionable and expensive. Whether this was intentional irony or not, they didn’t feel true to the characterizations, but Jessie Wallace did dress the women in gorgeous but simple ensembles befitting of upscale mommies who are also professionals. 

These relationships break down hard giving a whole other perspective to love that adds that from ILYYPNC. Comparing the two at the least was fun to find those parallels and differences and either (or both) would make for a winning Valentine’s outing. 

God of Carnage runs through March 3.