Interview: David Burtka is Back on Stage in GOD OF CARNAGE & Heading to Hulu With DRAG ME TO DINNER

Burtka shares why this play is so timely, what viewers can expect with his Drag Queen competition show, and more.

By: May. 01, 2023
Interview: David Burtka is Back on Stage in GOD OF CARNAGE & Heading to Hulu With DRAG ME TO DINNER

David Burtka is currently making his return to the New York stage, leading "God of Carnage" Off-Broadway at Theater Breaking Through Barriers. Theater Breaking Through Barriers is a theater company that works to spotlight people onstage and backstage with disabilities, and the production includes supertitles and audio description to make each performance accessible to all.

Burtka is also the co-creator, executive producer (alongside of his husband, Neil Patrick Harris) and judge for the new food competition series, Drag Me To Dinner on Hulu. The show, which premieres on May 31, features Drag Queens competing to host the most extravagant themed dinner party in each episode.

BroadwayWorld spoke with David Burtka about returning to the stage in God of Carnage, why this play is so timely, what viewers can expect with Drag Me To Dinner, and more!

David, you are making your return to the New York stage in God of Carnage!

I know! It's so crazy, and so great. It's been a while, it's been since It Shoulda Been You, which I did when my kids were five or six years old, and now they're 12. I didn't really have much heavy lifting to do in It Shoulda Been You, but this has been back to doing major text. This is reminding me of my heyday when I was 24, 25, which was my glory days in a way, so I could not be happier to be doing this.

A while back during Covid, I'd been chef-ing for a really long time, and I think everyone had a turn during Covid of, "Is this what I want to be doing? Is this life?" I had a Food Network show ready to go, we were talking about content, and they wanted to sign the contract and I said, "Nope!" I didn't want to do it. I wanted to go back to acting. And ever since then I've been manifesting, "What do I really want to do?" And it's been, 'Let's do an Off-Broadway play that makes people think, and makes people feel.' And God of Carnage just fell into my lap. I got offered the job and I was like, "This is what I wanted, this is it, this is happening." And I couldn't be happier. The play is more relevant than it was, I think, in 2009, which is crazy, 14 years ago, a lot has changed. It's just a dream, it's really, really been great.

God of Carnage

This show is being produced by Theater Breaking Through Barriers, which is a theater company that works to spotlight people onstage and backstage with disabilities. The play will include supertitles and audio description. Can you tell me what it's been like working with this amazing company?

Yeah! It's wild, I felt like working with TBT was more important than ever, their mission statement is so great. In this world of LGBTQ inclusion, and Black Lives Matter, and Stop Asian Hate, the one demographic group that we're not really spotlighting is people who have disabilities. We see it a little bit with a few actors here and there, and people are trying to cast people in TV shows to be woke, to meet their quota, but this is so great because it's showing that people with disabilities are just like us. They're just as able as anybody else to do a play like this.

Carey Cox uses a cane in the show, she has trouble walking, and Gabe Fazio is deaf in one ear completely, and slightly deaf in the other ear. He wears a hearing aid, so he's able to hear but you're not able to see it. In terms of the captions, I went up on my lines, and what a nightmare! Not necessarily in a regular performance because no one would know that you would go up on your lines, but because the captions are behind me, you've got to be word perfect! So there is the added pressure to have to get all of the words right! Ann Marie [Morelli], who is the understudy for the two women, she's in a wheelchair, so we had a blocking rehearsal to accommodate her if in fact she does have to go on.

Inclusion is so important. I couldn't be happier. Nick Viselli, the artistic director is so fantastic with all of that, with thinking of everybody. For the blind, there are audio descriptions, he wrote a whole six minute pre-show about our characters, mini scenes before the show even starts, setting the scene for people who are visually impaired. What these characters look like, and what the set looks like. It's interesting, it feels like everybody should do that.

God of Carnage is a four person play. How has it been building that dynamic with your cast members, and working to find your character within that dynamic?

It's been great. It's a really incredible play. When it comes down to it, it's just a great piece of theatre. In terms of working with my cast it's been awesome. It's one full scene and it doesn't stop, it starts like a locomotive and it just does not stop for 85 minutes. It's like popcorn, it starts to sizzle and it just keeps popping, and popping, and popping until the bag bursts! In terms of the characters, I don't think that I'd ever get cast in this in the past. In my 20s, I was always the happy fun guy, or the dumb guy, the smiley guy. But this character I'm playing is such an asshole, he's horrible. [laughs]. He's misogynistic, he's woman-hating, he's self-hating. He's this high-powered, conservative lawyer, that archetype we've all seen. It's been wild to take this journey with him. All of these characters are damaged people, and it's wild in this day and age, to look at these people.

I remember seeing this show in 2009 and thinking to myself, "Who talks like that to each other? Who behaves like that?" And now, in 2023 you know exactly who behaves like that and talks like that! There is this world where no one has any problem stating what they feelt. There is a line towards the end of the play, Annette, Carey Cox, my wife, says, "There were wrongs on both sides," which will hit everybody in a different way than in 2009. That's just the world we live in right now. It's interesting too, when I saw the play in 2009 I didn't have kids, but when I got offered the play, reading it, it hit me in such a different place. Because, as a parent, you see this so differently, how kids affect your lives, and how kids affect your marriage. It really is a deep piece.

God of Carnage

What do you hope that people take away from God of Carnage?

In the play there is really no resolve, and it's a piece of theatre that's a statement piece about where we are in our world, how we are on this hamster wheel that goes around, and around, and around, and how marriage issues can be cyclical, and you just keep revisiting the same problem over, and over, and over. And I really hope that people can see it and just realize to themselves, you need to have a little more humanity in life, to have a little more empathy for what people are going through. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt, because there is none of that happening with these adults, so it's a real commentary on how human behavior is being played out these days. And I hope that people can learn from these flawed humans.

In addition to God of Carnage, Hulu has ordered your new drag queen food competition series, Drag Me To Dinner. How does it feel knowing that in the midst of the social and political war on Drag, that you will have the opportunity to showcase Drag in this way?

I couldn't be happier. I'm just so thrilled that not only is Hulu showing a show like this, to be able to showcase these amazing talents on TV is just a joy! These Queens are incredible, 40 of the best comedy Queens in the biz are gracing our show, and we couldn't be happier. They are there to make people have fun, and to make people have a good time.

A lot of these Drag Queens will tell you you shouldn't take your kids to a Drag show. It's your decision as parents. I think Drag brunches are different as opposed to Drag night shows. There are things that Drag Queens do that are inappropriate, yes, but during the day at a Drag brunch it's much different. A Drag Queen reading a book? What harm does that do? I do think that there are discrepancies with parents, if they want to open up the conversation and tell them, they should just be open and honest with their kid. It all depends on what the parents want to do. My kids have grown up with Drag Queens, Lady Bunny used to come over for dinner! Willam spends a week with us during the summers and does my daughter's makeup and hair. They're part of the family and my kids are totally cool!

But the show is a blast. The show funny, and dumb, and it will bring a smile to your face, and it's exactly what we need right now! I hope you watch it, I hope you enjoy it.

God of Carnage

Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share?

I really hope that people can come see this really great piece of theatre. And in terms of Drag Me To Dinner, oh my god, just binge it! You'll have so much fun! Play a drinking game! There's a lot of dick jokes, so maybe every time they mention a man's member you drink! [laughs]. And it's not for kids, it's TV mature, we did not do it necessarily for children, it's for adults, and I think that's important. I hope that adults really enjoy it!

God of Carnage is now playing through May 20 at Theatre Row (410 W 42 nd Street). Drag Me To Dinner premieres May 31.

2023 Regional Awards


Interview: David Burtka is Back on Stage in GOD OF CARNAGE Photo
Interview: David Burtka is Back on Stage in GOD OF CARNAGE

Read BroadwayWorld's interview with David Burtka as he discusses his return to the stage in God of Carnage at Theater Breaking Through Barriers, and his new show Drag Me To Dinner on Hulu!



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