Center Stage: God of Carnage
What can be more fun or funnier than watching grownups acting out in an urban living room rumble? The answer is found in Yasmina Reza’s devastatingly hilarious, contemporary comedy “God of Carnage”, currently kicking off this new year’s season at the Florida Rep. This Tony winning battle royal was another South West Florida premier for the Rep.
Director Dennis Lee Delaney is making reappearance at the Florida Rep. having directed “Other People’s Money”, “Mixed Emotions” and “Sleuth” on Sanibel at the Pirates Playhouse. Delaney is currently the Head of the Professional Director Training Program at Ohio University. Delany kicks off this combative play by first garnering an ideal four Equity member dream cast: Craig Bockhorn, Chris CLavelli, Shelly Delaney, Carrie Lund; then placing them in a brilliantly creative, workable set by Robert F.Wolin, Costuming them to perfection by Roberta Malcolm with lighting by Todd O. Wren. When all is said and done the above ingredients blended together makes for a great, entertaining, enjoyable, evening, viewing live theater at its best.
As the lights dim, we are presented with four actors with a relatively simple story to tell, about their two boys getting into a playground clash, in which one breaks the other’s front teeth with a stick. The parents have agreed to meet and discuss the incident, then see what if anything can be done, in the way of a peaceful settlement.
Everything starts out genially at the top of the play, just a bit of bickering and bantering in the opening salvo that is until the etiquette begins to unravel, then the velvet gloves come off and soon enough we see the iron fist. Watching the feathers fly as these two middle aged, dysfunctional couples wage a metropolitan chic, version of W.W. 3; vituperative verbal smack downs, and pretentious, quasi intellectual quotes, are all in place, driving this ego driven comedy. Director Dennis Delaney manages to wring out every single laugh found in the droll pyrotechnics embedded in playwright Renza’s funny play. This is probably the right place to heap kudos on Christopher Hampton’s translation, with its biting big city chic way of dueling and skewering with words.
“God of Carnage” is a pretty straight forward scenario with many subtle and not so subtle gambits, along with some very specific similarities to our own lives and experiences. As we view this play, we seem to ask ourselves how many times have we reached for the bottle, as we became annoyed with our partners, or yearning for something better from our relationships, seeking a higher level of fulfillment from our lives. These are some of the experiences cleverly exposed in this play. What we see is a shifting dance as we descend into Renza’s version of today’s dog eat dog world.
As rum replaces espresso coffee, outer wear gets removed along with the niceties, and the sides of the warring factions begin to blur. The guys begin to gang up on the gals, the women begin to gang up on the men and the husbands and wives wind up briefly, and temporarily as allies in this battle of the sexes. When the action starts the characters regard their partners as surefire allies but eventually end up when each of them realizes that they are totally on their own. Going on to realize that it’s really the children’s fault; that it’s “the children who consume our lives and then destroy them”; so that in the end, “We only care about our own feelings”; add to that the belief that, “marriage is the most terrible ordeal God can inflict on you. The final result being; that everyone in this fray is having the unhappiest day of their lives; all of which serves to tickle our funny bones.
Carrie Lund shines hilariously in her role as Veronica Novak a gourmet cooking, control freak, writer and art lover of all things African, along with her moral concept of the world. Lund is a farcical whirlwind and had the audience in stitches as she cut loose with the four letter words while romping and stomping all over the stage in one particularly funny scene, that has to be seen to be believed. Not to be outdone Craig Buckhorn, made an auspicious Florida Rep. debut as Michael Novak by giving a first rate portrayal of this self satisfied, gentrified boor with no manners, no nonsense, household goods wholesaler. His blustering, blistering repartee is pure Brooklyn ESE in all its glory.
Another awesome actor making her Florida debut is Shelley Delaney as Annette Raleigh a professional “wealth management”, softy with a tender heart for critters like hamsters, then turning tigress when drinking rum, or pushed to the edge by her husband or getting skewered by another smart ass bitch like Veronica.
Last but in no way least we have Chris Clavelli as Alan Raleigh a high powered lawyer, with the a cell phone distracted focus, but not letting that get in the way of his blunt, self satisfied ability to get under people’s skin as he baits them into exposing their worst traits. Clavelli is a master craftsman at wringing laughter out of turning any space he’s in, into a war zone of exasperation and tension.
In summing up the whole opening night audience really enjoyed this emotional roller coaster ride watching “God of Carnage” played for our utter entertainment. The whole package: play, translation, acting, direction, set, costumes, lighting was quite simply GREAT, and not to be missed under any circumstances. Do not delay in phoning the Box Office at 332-4488, God of Carnage ends its run on Jan.22nd, and I’ll wager tickets will be going fast once the word gets out what a fine, fun laugh riot this is. When you call remind ’em Marsha sent you.