Minneapolis-produced play ‘These Things Happen’ graces Phoenix Theater stage

The play is written and directed by local playwright L. Alan Mason.

The cast of These Things Happen perform on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis.

Carter Jones

The cast of These Things Happen perform on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis.

by Joe Cristo

Now through Feb. 26, the Phoenix Theater is hosting the darkly comedic play “These Things Happen.” Written and directed by local playwright L. Alan Mason, the play serves as a “concurrent-quel” to his earlier work, “Abby & Ethan.”

The story centers around Dave McDowell (played by David Albino), a young, suicidal drunk that falls for the cold and homicidal Darcy Williams (Piper Shatz-Akin). Set in Kentucky during the mid ’90s, the tone typically veers from nihilistic insight to slapstick absurdity. There’s ambitious stage direction; jokes simmer instead of pop.

This is a play that relies heavily on human interaction. Truth and beauty can be found in the way friends or lovers speak to one another — making for much more interesting art.

But it can be hard to tell whether a stage act is successful based on the merits of the script. Especially when the ensemble is both endlessly exciting and perfectly cast.

As the male lead, Albino plays emotional struggle like a pro. The hard-partying, antisocial bad boy is no doubt a trope, but Albino projects solemnity where there should be none.

His female counterpart, Shatz-Akin, steals the show. Making her role a bit campy with a faux Hamptons accent, she’s a killer with comedic timing.

Rounding out the main cast are Cayla Marie Wolpers, Rachel Clarice Perry and Dorian Brooke. The trio plays a group of friends who are complicit in the passion crimes Darcy Williams perpetrates on her unsuspecting victims.

Each character is highly stylized, making for an incredibly appealing visual style. Every girl has a different hair color that is meant to symbolize something about their personality.

Set pieces and incidental audio are scarce, but used effectively. Scenes are occasionally interspersed with pop-punk power ballads — admittedly the most tone-deaf aspect of the performance.

Still, there’s something undeniably powerful about the way “These Things Happen” is put together.

It could be the fact that it’s well-written, -directed and -acted. Or that the Phoenix Theatre is small, cozy and inviting to anyone in the audience.

But the show is most likely moving because the cast remains small and obviously close. After all, words carry more meaning when they are swung ham-fistedly at a friend.