What’s more ridiculous, two tween boys having a fight or their parents trying to deal with the conflict?
The answer to that question can be found at Dobama Theatre where Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE is now on stage. It’s a comedy whose New York production was dubbed “a hysterical night of name-calling, tantrums and tears.”
The name-calling tantrums are the actions of the tweens in a playground tiff, right? Wrong! It’s their parents trying to deal “rationally” with Benjamin having knocked out two of Henry’s teeth with a twig. Before the meeting is over, there is a rolling on the floor hair pulling battle, taunting, a smart phone destroyed by a dunking in a vase of tulips, vomiting, some more vomiting, alcoholic consumption, constantly changing alliances, and insults about everything from the pastry being served to the belief systems of the participants. The topics of misogyny, racial prejudice, political attitudes, drug company misdeeds, and homophobia all rear their ugly heads. Rationality is replaced by riot!
Alan, Benjamin’s father, never gets off his cell phone, sharing intimate legal secrets about one of his drug client’s questionable compounds. Annette, his wife, who is a “management expert” tries to be above the fray. Well, at least at the start. Michael, Henry’s dad, who has just destroyed the family’s pet gerbil, enjoys talking about his “bad boy” days as a member of a suburban “gang.” Veronica, the “oh-so offended,” moralistic mother of the boy with the missing teeth, is a pseudo-intellect who fawns over art volumes while telling about her project of writing a book about the conflicts in Darfur. (She has never been to Darfur.) To add to the goings on, the phone keeps ringing with cries of distress from Michael’s Florida living senior citizen mother with knee problems.
The play, which opened in London in 2008, and moved to New York the next year, was originally written in French. Guess America isn’t the only place with adults who act more childish than their children.
The Broadway production starred Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden. All were nominated for Tony Awards. The production received the Tony for Best New Play.
The script was the source for the 2011 movie CARNAGE, which was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christopher Waltz and Kate Winslet.
Dobama’s production of GOD OF CARNAGE, under the adept direction of Joel Hammer, is a total delight. The show is well paced, the many laugh lines are cued for the right responses, and the author’s intent is well developed.
The cast is universally strong. Tracee Patterson is nothing short of perfect as Veronica. She embraces both the comedy and farce aspects of the role. Derdriu Ring’s Annette starts out controlled and competently builds into a vomiting, opinionated hellcat. Scott Miller effectively forms Alan, the smart phone obsessed lawyer, into an obnoxious bore. John Hedges is both funny and pathetic as the gerbil destroying dad. The quartet plays well off each other and creates lots of laughs with good timing and farcical abandonment.
Laura Carlson’s scenic design makes for a perfect visual of an upper middle class suburban living room.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: GOD OF CARNAGE is a well written comedy that evokes constant laughter. It gets a top-notch production at Dobama. If you want an evening of totally delightful entertainment, to experience rationality being replaced by riot, this is a must go-see!
Review by Roy Berko (Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)