It started out as a civil, agreeably evening. Following a playground altercation which leaves one eleven year old boy with a swollen lip and two damaged teeth, two sets of parents meet to clear the air and plan out, through mutual agreement, the best way to proceed. Alan and Annette (Jeff Daniels & Hope Davis) are the parents of the Benjamin, assailant child. The hosts of this soiree are injured Henry’s parents Michael and Veronica (James Gandolfini & Marcia Gay Hayden).
Without the presents of objective mediation, the couples work out how the situation will be resolved. Despite her rock solid cordiality, Veronica’s Stepford-veiled condescension slowly wears on the group. Annette is the picture of propriety, walking the thin line of responsibility and agreement; but as the evening progresses, she gently resists Veronica’s inclignation to completely throw her son Benjamin under the bus. Alan is virtually no help to his wife. He sits uninterested, barely commenting on the discussion. His attention, energy and concern are laser-focused on every phone call that comes to his cell.
His explanation: “I have no manners.”
In stark contrast, Michael is friendly and open and happy to engage in conversation, expect that Veronica does not seem to like anything he has to say. Chiding after chiding, he is getting tired of playing nice for his wife and for the folks whose kid pummeled his kid.
Then, without much warning (or explanation), Annette blows her chucks in the middle of the living room. Initial chaos leads to confusion and more chaos. The four adults forsake appearances and propriety and the evening escalated into an incredible intra-spousal bastion of confrontation, heated tantrums and crying fits. Whether the conversation will return to the matter at hand – the playground fight between their sons – looks very unlikely; these parents are not easily separated from their battles.
God of Carnage is a wild ride. Perhaps a better name for this show would be “The Battle of the Super Ids”. Every character – except Alan – desperately wants something and is then humiliated and infuriated once that desire is brought out into the open. Only Alan is unencumbered with lack or shame in getting what he wants. He is unapologetically apathetic, and that liberates him. Christopher Hampton’s translation of playwright Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play expertly tweaks the fine threads upon which these characters rest their insecurities.
Director Matthew Warchus skillfully reduces a calm mature meeting of four mild mannered adults into a no holds barred, schoolyard brawl. The physical comedy is quite unexpected and truly well done. Mark Thompson is to be congratulated on a brilliant set design. This beautiful set is angular and askew to intensify the feeling of imbalance, yet rich, deep red to magnify the heated passions running amuck, or perhaps to suggest a bloodbath…
There is not much to say about the cast that one would not expect: They were terrific! Jeff Daniels makes a departure from his usually sweet-hearted roles to give a winning performance as a character that is a real tool. James Gandolfini gives a wonderfully measured performance from good-natured husband to angry musophobia Neanderthal. Hope Davis dons a lovely inebriated duchess of repression to Marcia Gay Harden’s obsessed queen of social conscience and common courtesy. This show includes a cast of headliner talent and they deliver A-list performances with ease.
This is definitely a show to checkout!
Click below to see a video clip:
God of Carnage is running now through May 29, 2011 at
at the Music Center downtown Los Angeles
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets: Call 213.972.4400