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Previews
God of Carnage

God of Carnage
Corn Stock Theatre
February 17-19 & 24-25
By Cara Rosson

 

In the talkback after the show, an audience member made a comment that best summarizes “God of Carnage.” I paraphrase here, but she said essentially that “they talk about everything, and they talk about nothing. And nothing gets resolved. Kind of like Seinfeld.”

And that is exactly what “God of Carnage” feels like. Two couples arguing about everything, concerning raising their children. But none of it is revelatory, or ground breaking. None of it should seem very dramatic. Most of it is stuff that you probably already know. And yet, it's an entertaining, intriguing and laugh out loud evening of biting comedy.

So here's the basic story: Veronica and Michael Novak have invited Annette and Alan Raleigh to meet at their home (a Brooklyn, NY condo). Veronica and Mike's son, eleven-year-old Henry, was hit in the mouth with a stick by Ben, Annette and Alan's also eleven-year-old son. We learn quickly that Henry had two teeth knocked out and has gone through a few doctors visits and considerable pain. The Novak’s want to talk through the situation with the Raleigh’s, and arrange for Ben to come over to apologize to Henry.

But, as I'm sure you know how these things usually go, especially when we are discussing children and family – it's not that simple. We all have different parenting styles and theories. And when someone else suggests that we parent in this way or that – we will often disagree. If pushed too hard, we will get annoyed. Even argumentative.

And boy oh boy, is that what happens here. In spades. Veronica, a writer currently working on a book about the tragedies in Darfur, and played with the sincerest liberal correctness by Lee Ann Roling Hale, starts to really grate on the nerves of pharmaceutical company lawyer Alan Raleigh, done with just the right brash and superior, but not too abrasive tone, by Tim Drew. Their respective spouses Michael and Annette do what they can to keep things civil. Tim Wyman brings great flexibility and goofiness to Michael, while Liz Bucklar Jockish as Annette draws you right into the seriously awkward and uncomfortable situation the four of them are trying so hard to make the best of.

But after they start to really push each other’s buttons, all semblance of politeness gets thrown out the window. The insults and snide remarks start to fly, fast and furious. The ensemble does a fantastic job with pacing – they fly into the height of a battle but then give the audience a few moments to recover before the next skin-crawlingly awkward insult or remark leaves their lips. It is at turns the fight you have always wanted to have with your kid's best buddy's flaky parents, and the painfully embarrassing fight you really don't want to have with your spouse in front of anyone else.

And yes, this is a comedy, as black as it is. Revelations like, “Our son is a savage, okay!” And “Children consume our lives, and then they destroy them,” are surprisingly funny in this context and kept me chuckling or rolling my eyes or biting my lip, knowing how true the insight is while being totally embarrassed to think that I agree.

Director Paul Gordon has done a great job with the cast. The whole play takes place in just the one set, the Novak's living room. And in the Winter Playhouse, the audience surrounds the stage. But the ensemble plays around and about the set so well; there is no really bad seat in the house.

I suspect that you will agree completely with some lines, and disagree passionately with others. And there, I think, is the crux of the situation. What would you do if it were you? How would you handle this? Its just kids, after all, and it was just a playground altercation. The teeth lost are not permanent ones. But what should your children take away from it, if anything? How important is it to be civil in our civilized society, or can we just chalk it up to our basic instincts and let it go? Or is that important at all?

“God of Carnage” certainly makes it a fun situation to ponder. And you can go do that this weekend, at Corn Stock's Winter Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park, February 24 and 25 at 7:30 pm each night.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students with ID and are available at the Corn Stock Box Office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at www.CornStockTheatre.com 

Posted February 22, 2012

 

 
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