God of Carnage

By Alidor Aucoin on December 16, 2011


God of Carnage, at the Centaur until December 4th, (and probably longer)  is a clever and brutally funny farce  that’s the hottest ticket in town.  A perfect ensemble cast  under Roy Surette’s disciplined and brilliant direction  unleashes 90 minutes of domestic mayhem on an unsuspecting audience. The play explores that  razor thin line between civility and savagery, love and hate.  What we have here is reminiscent of Who is Afraid of Virgina Woolf  without  Albee’s bite.  Playwright Yasmina Reza cuts to the bone but somehow manages to leaves you laughing at the lacerations.  Two apparently happily married couples, Michael and Veronica Novak (Ellen David and Mark Camacho) and  Alan and Annette “Woof-Woof” Raleigh, (Marcel Jeannin and Janine Theriault)  meet  to sort out a playground scrap involving their respective sons.   The Novak  boy has had had two of his teeth knocked out in a scuffle with the Raleigh boy. Naturally, two sets of parents get together to settle the damages.

A semantic misunderstanding over whether the Raleigh boy was “armed” with a stick, escalates into pained frustration.  Alan  cheerfully  admits  his son is a savage  and is  prepared to pay for  aggreived kids new front teeth and get on with  life But the Novak’s seem determined to extract a pound of emotional flesh before they are satisfied. As  the  polite small talk is lubricated with a social drink,  the fissures and fault lines in their respective marriages are exposed.  Veronica Novak is a radical chic writer who believes in the soothing power of culture. She’s publishing a book on Darfur;  Her husband is a neanderthal.  Ellen David is superb as Veronica. She is insufferably overbearing and earnest,  one of those earnest liberals who pay lip service but little else to their beliefs. Mark Camacho seizes the stage like a thick skinned rhinoceros, the kind of guy who delights in killing pet hamsters, and doesn’t let go. 

carnage.jpgEverything  comes to a head when  Annette  cracks under pressure in a “brutal and catastrophic spray of vomit. ”  The unexpected gastric explosion has the audience roaring with laughter in sheer surprise and disgust. After that it’s a no-holds barred, knock down drag out fight.  Janine Theriault is ideal as Annette the repressed ice princess; Marcel Jeannin  is perfect as her  vacuous  husband, a successful corporate lawyer who loves his cell phone more than his wife. No one on stage takes a false step, even when Jeannin breaks into a showstopping  pirouette  of child-like exasperation. You almost expect him to hold his breath and turn blue. By the end of the evening the stage has been  soiled  not only with vomit, but with bits of clafouti, shreds of cuban cigars and tulips ripped from the vase and scattered to the wind.  Michael Eagan has designed an elegantly understated upper crust room, - one of those Architectural Digest  libraries  where the books are meant to be looked at rather than read -  that withstands all the damage. Married couples will undoubtedly find more meaning in the play than those who aren’t. Everyone, however, will have a great time in the realization, as Woody Harrelson once put it, that “Grown ups are just children with layers on.”



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