"The Two Kids That Blow S--- Up," Carla Ching's edgy show that opened over the weekend for a brief run in Minneapolis, has been falsely advertised. We've been told this new play is a romantic comedy, and we expect laughs and romance as the story unfolds around Diana (Sun Mee Chomet) and Max (Sherwin Resurreccion), who meet as children when their parents, both of whom are in committed relationships with other people, begin an affair.
But "Two Kids" is really a war story about a hard-bitten, occasionally boozy pair who have fought the world together, even as they turn their verbal firepower on each other. At the end of the play, when Max and Diana pass a liquor bottle between them, they seem like grizzled veterans who are thankful to each other for their lives even as they continue to get on each other's nerves.
As produced by Mu Performing Arts, "Two Kids" has zip, grit and a lot of heart.
Director Randy Reyes' production is defined by boxes; scores of them demarcate space in the University of Minnesota's Kilburn Theatre, where the 90-minute in-the-round production takes place. And that metaphor is apt, since there's a lot of unpacking of baggage in this nonlinear show that jumps around between the character's ages. We meet Diana and Max at age 38 before zipping back to childhood, then to teens, 20s and 30s again.
Over 30 years, Max and Diana witness, or are a part of, divorce and marriage, more divorce, and death. They serve as sounding boards and confidantes for each other, even becoming lovers. It's all very complicated stuff, emotions-wise, and Reyes and his team play the script almost like a drama. That tonal seriousness works. The director and his actors take pains to make sure these two Asian-American characters are presented with dignity and depth.
"Two Kids" offers a workout for Reyes' two very capable actors, who get to show off their theatrical chops without preening. Chomet is tough as Diana, as at home with her characters' profanities as she is with her insecurities. In fact, her performance is so seamless, there's no hint that she's acting as she goes through her many changes of costume and moods. She has a capable partner in Resurreccion, an actor who demonstrates great intuition. Together, they form a muscular pair.
Playwright Ching's 30-year timeline seems long only to a young person. By the end of the show, the 38-year-olds discuss gravestones. That seems a tad early for end-of-life discussion. But, who knows, after all the scars they've acquired, they may be ready for an express checkout.