Written by Daniella Litvak
Have you ever watched an episode of television where the hero is trapped in a room with another character? Most of the time the other character is someone the hero despises, or the trapped characters have unresolved romantic feelings for each other. It could even be both. Once trapped, secrets get revealed. Feelings get shared. However, at the end of the ordeal, the issues are resolved, and the characters have a newfound appreciation for themselves and for each other. Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play God of Carnage completely deconstructs this scenario.
The cast consists of four characters –two pairs of husbands and wives. Cassidy McMillan and Wade Williamson play Veronica and Michael Novak. Veronica is a social activist who considers herself a “citizen of the world.” Michael runs a hardware company and appears supportive of his wife’s ideals. Keith Bush and Laura Flores bring Alan and Annette Raleigh to life. Alan is an amoral attorney while Annette is increasingly frustrated with his unbreakable attachment to his cell phone and apathy towards everything else. Together, the two couples meet in the Novak living room to discuss what they should do about the Raleigh’s son hitting the Novak’s son. The conversation quickly steers away from the children and towards topics that shed light on everyone’s darker nature.
God of Carnage debuted in 2009. However, its structure follows the ancient, Aristotelian model for drama. The play follows one action and has minimal subplots. It covers a period of time that is less than twenty-four hours long and takes place entirely in one location.
While the show nails the “I don’t want to be here atmosphere,” the passive aggressive small talk quickly loses its appeal –mostly because the lines are not sharp enough. The real entertainment comes during the moments when the characters completely lose it. When the actors are uninhibited and the props go flying, the show really heats up.
The staging and the facial expressions really carry the material. Laura Flores’ impressive ”I’m about to be sick” face. The way Keith Bush sprawls out on a crouch or walks towards another actor does more to describe the character and brings more laughter than any line could have. The only complaint is the occasional moment when an actor seemed too restrained during the unraveling process, which caused an abrupt (instead of gradual) transformation from calm and collected to uncontrolled.
Costumes are a missed opportunity. Black was the primary color for all the actors’ costumes, which gives them a monochromatic look. The use of more colors in their wardrobes could have further distinguished the characters. Except for the few times a character takes off a coat or jacket, the costumes didn’t change throughout the show.
God of Carnage’s tagline is “A Comedy Of Manners… Without The Manners.” However, the play seems to have more in common with a Greek tragedy. There are moments of gut-busting laughter, but it seems like the intent behind most of the jokes is to make people feel somber human condition rather than chuckle. Though occasionally dragged down with some awkward moments, it is an interesting character study.
Side note: Show contains a copious amount of adult language.
September 25 and runs thru Saturday, October 17
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Roman Polanski directed the 2011 film adaptation, Carnage, which stars Jodie Foster, John C. Reily, Christoph Waltz, and Kate Winslet