BWW Review: Lyrics Arts Produces Compelling and Contemporary GOD OF CARNAGE
The Tony Award Wining 2009 "God of Carnage," opened at Lyric Arts this weekend. The intimate theater offers a splendid production of Yasmina Reza's comic tragedy with sophistication. The 90 minute, no intermission evening presents a plethora of philosophical issues to contemplate, especially in regard to contemporary society. This fascinating evening will uncover the darkest humor alongside frightening realities present in society.
In this show for mature audiences, two couples, the Raleigh's and Nowaks, try to reconcile the fact their 11 year son, Ben and Henry, had "an incident" on the school playground. Ben knocked two of Henry's incisors while bashing his mouth with a "stick." As the two sets of parents, played by Bill Williamson, Jaime White Jachimeic (the Raleighs) along with Don Mahoney and Katie Wodele, the Novaks, the four people examine the repercussions and reprimands of the encounter. Seen through their own individual lenses, the two couples debate the ins and outs of civility and culture as opposed to primitive violence in contemporary humanity.
While Reza's play stretches this meaning, the strict definition of carnage means "the slaughter of human flesh or animals." In the play, a supposed hamster might have been 'murdered' by Mr. Novak. His wife, Veronica, has been studying and will publish a book on Darfur's genocide. The two events provide a counterpoint to the conflict between the two young adults, Ben and Henry, and the discussions that ensue.
While the dialogue presents plenty of dark comedy for the audience, the second 45 minutes unravels as stepping in soaking rope ladder stretched across a ravine. Each step a person takes is another step of fate that they might fall into the devastating ravine. Each couple takes steps further and further into chaos, or their own form of social carnage in this impeccable, upscale New York apartment designed by Joe Black and Brian Proball. Director Scott Ford paces the production to an appropriate climax, while the four characters descend into unrelenting, no hold bars dialogue, thanks in part to a vintage bottle or rum they all drink from.
The comedy is horribly funny, and horribly current--well worth revisiting or seeing for the first time. Translated from Reza's native French by Christopher Hampton, the play provides the perfect microcosm of what's happening in today's society. Is humanity reduced to the neanderthal impulses of violence or has humanity truly evolved as Veronica contemplates in a more civil, restrained culture? To help in an answer to that question, please note the following articles flowing through the newspapers: " A Call for Civility in a Culture Increasing in Coarseness, (April 2014). "The Civility Wars," (New Yorker, 2014)."Calls for Civility Come From People in Privilege" (June 27, 2018). "Clinton Rejects Calls for Civility in Politics," (October 9, 2018).
Could Lyric Arts present a more arresting and relevant play? While the audience may be uncomfortable for a short while, Reza's play will be well worth viewing. She won a best play award for a distinct reason and determined where the audience might be placed in the satirical play up until the last moment. While this review could detail more of the action between the two couples, which features discussions on marriage, and a host of other issues, the play mesmerizes up until the last moments.
In the final moments,, Veronica's daughter calls and wonders what happened to her pet hamster. Veronica attempts to console the girl with calming words with our revealing the actual truth. Which plies the question: what do parents tell their children in this dilemma between acting like neanderthals and civilized society? After attending this compelling Lyric Arts performance, what will the audience tell their children?
Lyric Arts presents God of Carnage at Anoka's Theater on Main Street through October 28. For information, or tickets to the performance, please visit: www.lyricarts.org.