Review: GOD OF CARNAGE Delivers Dark Comedy at MILWAUKEE REPERTORY THEATER

Award-Winning Play Elicits Gasps & Laughter

By: Apr. 25, 2023
Review: GOD OF CARNAGE Delivers Dark Comedy at MILWAUKEE REPERTORY THEATER

The Milwaukee Rep has staged a superbly acted, shocking, relatable, tornado of a black comedy with God of Carnage. Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza in 2006, the play had a German-language premier followed by a London run in 2008, where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. After making its Broadway debut in 2009, God of Carnage went on to also win the Tony Award for Best Play.

Inspired by a real-life experience of Reza's, God of Carnage takes place in one evening in a single living room. The play opens with two couples meeting to discuss an incident that happened between their eleven-year-old sons: one whacked the other with a stick, breaking some teeth. In getting together to discuss the incident and next steps, the parents hope to mend fences, stay civil, and help their sons -- and themselves -- move on from the experience.

Things start off cordial enough, but devolve into all-out chaos rooted in very different personalities, priorities, and philosophies on parenting. God of Carnage blends sharp dialogue with startling physical feats of comedy. To tackle the range required in this award-winning play, directed by Ryan Quinn, the Rep has brought together four brilliant actors: Heidi Armbruster as Veronica, Adam Poss as Michael, Makha Mthembu as Annette, and Elan Zafir as Alan.

This foursome plays perfectly off each other. The script's hefty amount of dialogue flows easily from the get-go with themes from blame to bullying, gender roles to parenting styles. What are at one point referred to as "exhausting conversations" are made lively and interesting thanks to this cast, eliciting introspection and laughter alike. But for all this talking, God of Carnage isn't all wordiness. The physicality required is intense at times, and this cast of four succeeds to laugh-aloud, audibly-gasping effect.

Set design by Mariana Sanchez brings height and depth to this one-room play. We see steps to the upstairs bathroom and a gorgeous kitchen beyond the central living room, all modern in their design. Costumes by Nicholas Herman visually indicate a lot about these four characters and their unique perspectives. Lighting by designer Heather Gilbert creates a wonderful, subtle shift relative to the real passing of time in this 1.5-hour, no-intermission play.

God of Carnage makes for an entertaining evening of theater. If you're a fan of dark comedy and award-winning plays, be sure to catch it at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater through May 14th, 2023.

Photo credit: Michael Brosilow




Videos