Stage Review: God of Carnage
Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage provides an ironic take on human barbarism
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by Sean Conwell on Apr 04, 2012
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Alan (Benjamin Evett, left) has trouble separating a wife, Veronica (Amy Resnick), from her husband, Michael (Bob Sorenson), in 'God of Carnage.'
At one point in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the young hero wishes for something “grown-up’ to keep his band of marooned schoolboys from reverting to savagery. Ironically, war is raging in the world beyond their island prison, and the adults are behaving far more savagely than the children.
Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage provides a similarly ironic take on human barbarism, though despite its fearsome title, this play is a comedy, and a funny one at that. Society breaks down, not on a deserted island but in a bourgeois household where modern decor recalls the primitive haunts of our ancestors. Rather than castaways, the players are two sets of middle-aged helicopter parents who become tangled in a morass of petty conflict after their children get into a playground fight, ultimately behaving much worse than the kids ever would.
With depictions of marital discord that have earned comparisons to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Reza’s play has been translated from its original French, made into a movie by Roman Polanski and is now on the boards at San Jose Rep. This co-production with Arizona Theatre Company, directed by Rick Lombardo, features a cast and crew that were warmly received last year in Tucson and Phoenix.
Joey Parsons’ turn as Annette, anxious and gross beneath a mask of confidence and charm, is perhaps the evening’s most amusing performance. Amy Resnick is wonderful as Veronica, a stalwart defender of civilization who doesn’t follow her own advice regarding politeness. Benjamin Evett provides her mirror image as Annette’s husband, Alan, a slimy corporate lawyer who sums himself up by mumbling, “I have no manners,’ through a mouthful of clafouti. Bob Sorenson brings an everyman touch to Veronica’s husband Michael, somewhat less of a scumbag than Alan, though not exactly innocent of hamster murder.
There is a pleasing balance between witty verbal shootouts and broad physical comedy, including an episode of projectile vomiting (for complete, 100 percent safety, don’t sit in the front row). The first half-hour or so is one of the funniest things I’ve seen recently, and even if that level of hilarity isn’t quite sustained throughout, it’s still a perverse joy to see men who idolize John Wayne and Spartacus exposed as pathetic and ineffectual, while women who fancy themselves custodians of the world are reduced to inane shrieking. Who would have thought that the demise of civilization could be so humorous?
God of Carnage
Runs through April 15: $10-$74
San Jose Repertory Theatre, 408.367.7255