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Written by Yasmina Reza, the Tony Award-winning 'God of Carnage' opens Jan. 12.

COURTESY IMAGE - Theatre in the Grove's January offering is 'God of Carnage,' by Yasmina Reza.When parents defend their children, are they always right? Why do we interact with others? What is the purpose of civility?

These are the questions "God of Carnage," a 2009 Tony Award winning play by Yasmina Reza, poses to audiences. Theatre in the Grove will kick off the new year with a take on the production directed by Zachary Centers, who directed last year's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."

"The theater approached me and asked if I wanted to take on something that was a little harder hitting and more challenging to the community," he said. "Every year, Theatre in the Grove tries to have one of these plays in its season."

Centers suggested "God of Carnage," and the theater's board agreed to undertake the project.

Set in contemporary Brooklyn, New York, a violent playground altercation between 11-year-old boys brings together two sets of parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses (and the rum flows), tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters.

Michael (Brandon B. Weaver) and Veronica (Kate Barrett) invite Alan (Benjamin Philip) and Annette (Tori Lee Scoles) to their home in an attempt to amicably resolve the consequences of their children's playground altercation. It doesn't take long before this civilized discussion spirals downhill into a savagely funny dark comedy of terrible manners.

Reza's play poses another question — how can people expect children to act like grown-ups if adults cannot control their own behavior?

"We have shows that are really great, but not all of them necessarily deal with heavier themes," said Centers. "This is a show that does just that. We have these parents meeting in the aftermath of one kid bashing out another kid's teeth with a stick. And they're trying to do what they think is the right thing, but they also get extremely childish."

Centers noted that Theatre in the Grove's production comes at an interesting time, when the climate of society features those who try to be civil, and, in contrast, those who couldn't care less. The play from start to finish focuses solely on the meeting the parents set up. And it's not just the themes of the play that are little more heavy-handed — the play itself pulls no punches and isn't afraid to get crude.

"Navigating the script, digging into why the characters are the way they are, examining the details of people that help them fit into these stereotypes, this has been the most challenging part for all of us," said Centers. "This has also been the funnest part ... it's this double-edged sword. The dialogue is sharp, witty and all over the place."

Politics aren't directly mentioned in the play either; however, it's not hard to deduce that they most certainly influence the characters audiences will see in the play. What does it mean to be morally correct? Centers hopes the production will lead people into taking an introspective look within themselves.

"These parents are horrible, and I want the audience to see them and say 'these people are terrible ... am I like that?'" he said.

But above all, he hopes that everyone has a good time.

"If you're easily turned off by language, this might not be the one for you, but I believe that theater should be provoking. There is a message here," Centers said. "Grab a drink, come ready to laugh and leave reflecting on things."

The production will run from Friday, Jan. 12, to Sunday, Jan. 28, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (17 and under). They can be bought at the box office at 2028 Pacific Ave. on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or one hour before each performance.

For a complete listing of showtimes, visit www.theatreinthegrove.org or call 503-359-5349.

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