BWW Review: Ghostlight Theatre Presents GOD OF CARNAGE
Four exceptional troupers are breathing fire into Yasmina Reza's incisive tragicomedy about human nature, social class, and, more specifically, personkind's proclivity to violence.
GOD OF CARNAGE, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, is a no holds barred unmasking of the subterranean impulses and suppressed tensions of what otherwise appear to be very normal, nice, and balanced folks. And, it is riotously funny.
Rarely produced, this wildly physical and explosive drama, directed with precision and sensitivity by Richard Hardt, is getting the royal treatment it deserves at Ghostlight Theatre.
(This intimate venue in the serene surroundings of Sun City West, a mere 23 minutes from downtown Phoenix, should be a destination point for theatre lovers who value the quality performances that are characteristic of community theatre. And the cast of this special show deserves an appreciative audience.)
Allen (Scott Hyder) and Annette (Amy Garland) Raleigh have arrived at the simple and neatly detailed living room of Michael (BJ Garrett) and Veronica (Carrie Ellen Jones) Novak to discuss the playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons that left Henry Novak with two broken teeth. Veronica has prepared a carefully drafted statement stipulating the facts of the situation ~ her goal, merely a face-to-face apology from the guilty party.
It seems at first glance a reasonable expectation that should easily lend itself to a mutually acceptable solution.
Not so fast, though! Allen, a corporate attorney with a shark mentality, fesses up to the fact that his son Benjamin is a savage but resolutely declares that "any kind of spontaneous repentance would be fanciful." His attitude: boys will be boys, the insurance will cover the damage, let's move on!
Amicable resolution is not in the cards for this game of social war. As the couples argue about blame and accountability, launching barrages of sarcasm and judgmentalism, their discourse deteriorates into chaos.
The art of Reza's work is that, while she has composed a biting indictment of human pretensions, she has wrapped the ensuing frenzy into an affair of near farce. She compels us to laugh at our follies lest we be depressed by them. (In this regard, I'll leave it to the audience to learn and enjoy how a hamster, tulips, rare books of art, clafouti, and cellphones all fit into the proceedings!)
Reza has no intentions in the play to model the abc's of civil discourse and conflict resolution. She is more about blowing up the notion, if any hold to it, that adults can or should manage conflict better than their kids and revealing instead the chemistry that feeds and rationalizes violence in its disparate forms. Her menagerie of characters, when prodded and threatened, reveals the tensions that boil beneath political correctness, the unspoken resentments that may hover within a marriage, the accommodations one may make to fit into a relationship or more generally society, and the manipulations that one may weave for protection of self or territory.
In fulfillment of Reza's vision, the cast at Ghostlight delivers riveting and convincing performances as the fearsome foursome. Each is terrific:
Scott Hyder, emulating the self-absorbed, cellphone-dependent, hardball attorney who has no apologies for bad boy behavior, defends the indefensible acts of his pharma client, retains a cynical view of human nature, and believes unequivocally in "the god of carnage."
Carrie Ellen Jones, mesmerizing as the uncompromising, art-loving woman of conscience, who is driven to meltdown by both her husband's digressions and Alan's obstinacy.
Amy Garland, perfectly poised as Annette, Alan's refined and condescending wife, whose perspective on virility is jaw-dropping.
BJ Garrett, perfectly aggravating as Michael, the fickle aim-to-please host whose confession about his disdain for children (they "consume our lives and destroy them") and "pathetic complicity" with Alan exemplify the contradictions at everyone's core.
GOD OF CARNAGE runs through November 4th at Ghostlight Theatre in Sun City West.
Poster credit to Ghostlight Theatre