God of Carnage
Two couples meet for the first time after their sons get into a fight at school in the first revival of the prize winning play by Yasmina Reza.
Theater Breaking Through Barriers has the pleasure of presenting Yasmina Reza’s award winning, dark comedy God of Carnage at Theater Row, a play in which two couples meet for the first time after their sons get into a fight at school.
God of Carnage has seen several successful productions, winning London’s 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy and New York’s 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as a smartly done 2011 film. TBTB now presents this play in an intimate off-Broadway debut.
The story opens as Veronica (Christiane Noll) is penning a statement in the presence of her husband, Michael (Gabe Fazio) and couple Alan (David Burtka) and Annette (Carey Cox), describing how Alan and Annette’s son Henry, “armed with a stick,” broke Veronica and Michael’s son Benjamin’s front teeth in a skirmish at school. The foursome sits down to coffee and pastry, politely friendly at first, but civility slowly goes out the window as each parent’s more noble attributes begin to fall away in favor of their juicier character flaws. What is blame, who gets to cast it, and who gets to own it? Does provocation justify the reaction? These questions and other themes spike up in this archly comic piece.
TBTB is known for developing and supporting the arts for persons with disabilities, and in that vein, this staging is presented with full captions projected on the back wall of Bert Scott’s sleek, smart, and quite maroon set.
This production has big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the established Broadway and movie casts. Burtka is appropriately rude and caustic as Alan, and his role is perhaps easiest to fill due to its consistent lack of depth. Fazio’s portrayal of Michael is solid, but a bit more refined than the character ought to be, interfering with some of the humor that would otherwise arise from the class schism between him and the other characters. Noll’s performance as Veronica is reasonably grounded, although her fever-pitch moments seem geared for laughs that don’t ultimately come. Unfortunately, Cox’s portrayal of Annette is vague and at most times inauthentic; her character may be accused of being fake, but her portrayal needs to be in earnest. This play works best when each of the characters takes themselves as seriously as a heart attack, but in the case of this cast, they are less inspired.
The direction by Nicholas Viselli ultimately misses a key point in this plot, which is that Alan and Annette should be staged as perpetually trying to leave Veronica and Michael’s apartment. These two couples are strangers to each other; they are not friends or even acquaintances. Yet the staging plunks the four of them together with too much familiarity and intimacy. Their situation does not call for them to remain in each other’s company for so long, or for backrubs to be exchanged, etc.; it’s just not believable. The entire premise of the plot is made implausible by blocking and acting choices that should have been redirected.
Reza’s script (deftly translated by Sir Christopher Hampton) still shines, but only on the page, and less so in this production, which is more of a miss than a hit.
God of Carnage (through May 20, 2023)
Theater Breaking Through Barriers
Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets visit http://www.tbtb.org
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission
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