San Diego Theater Review: GOD OF CARNAGE (The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on August 5, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

COMEDIC CARNAGE SHARPLY
WALKS THE LINE OF TRAGEDY

Milo Shapiro's Stage and Cinema review of GOD OF CARNAGE at The Old Globe, San DiegoPlaywright Yasmina Reza has said, “My plays have always been described as comedy, but I think they’re tragedy.  They are funny tragedy, but they are tragedy.  Maybe it’s a new genre.”  Reza isn’t kidding herself.  Audience members can be spotted gasping, flinching, moaning, and covering their faces during God of Carnage — followed by a good belly laugh or an uncomfortable chuckle.  Whatever your reaction, you can’t take your eyes off the stage.

The plot begins mid-action, as two affluent couples are attempting to cope with a conflict between their unseen eleven-year-old sons:  Benjamin, son of Alan and Annette (T. Ryder Smith and Caitlin Muelder), has knocked out two teeth on Henry, son of Michael and Veronica (Lucas Caleb Rooney and Erika Rolfsrud).  The four parents endeavor to be oh-so-civilized as they try to “Dr. Phil” their way through the situation to yield the best growth experience for both boys.  The polite process unravels, though, on our 75-minute theatrical thrill ride, as the 4 real children in Veronica and Michael’s upscale apartment are slowly exposed.

Milo Shapiro's Stage and Cinema review of GOD OF CARNAGE at The Old Globe, San Diego

While not as twisted as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the characters in Carnage have a similar pattern: secrets are revealed, confessions follow, and alliances shift; their repeated attempts to regain composure and civility become desperate and pointless once tears have been shed and anger unleashed, sometimes in unexpected directions.  There is also a strong reminiscence of No Exit, as characters threaten to leave—and even tell others to depart—but somehow no one can, even if remaining will make things worse.  And with dialogue this clever, we are glad no one escapes (credit needs to be given to translator Christopher Hampton for keeping—or perhaps enhancing—the sharp wit of Reza’s French script).

Milo Shapiro's Stage and Cinema review of GOD OF CARNAGE at The Old Globe, San Diego

The stage time is evenly divided among the extremely strong actors in director Richard Seer’s tight, fast-moving ensemble production.  While Reza’s script raises a bit more sympathy for the wives than the husbands, no one escapes the afternoon unscathed. The intimate theater-in-the-round set design by Robert Morgan benefits this program, keeping attendees physically close to the anxiety Seer creates.  One sight gag is exquisitely executed, briefly stopping the show with laughter and applause; you will leave talking about it, but it is the ever-shifting, palpable tension and the relatable humor of human frailty which will resonate long thereafter.

Milo Shapiro's Stage and Cinema review of GOD OF CARNAGE at The Old Globe, San Diegophotos by Henry DiRocco

God of Carnage
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
The Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
Tues and Wed at 7; Thurs and Fri at 8;
Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on Sept 2, 2012
for tickets, call 619.437.6000
or visit The Old Globe

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