Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

God of Carnage  – Jimmy Smits, Christine Lahti, Annie Potts, Ken Stott – Broadway Theater Review  




god of carnageTheater Review 

by Cindy Pierre 

published February 7, 2010 


God of Carnage 

now playing on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

open run


Everyone has the capacity to see red, and to provoke it in others.  Anger is a rampant and addictive condition. In a world where violence and calamity is breaking out on each continent, it's no wonder that people are spending thousands on therapy bills or hundreds on kickboxing classes to dissolve it.  Too much exposure, and it becomes easy to absorb, and almost impossible to expunge.  It grows and festers until even a simple quarrel between children, probably predicated by this exposure, can incite a blaze.


Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage is a beautiful fire that rages, smolders, is reduced to cinders, and then begins the cycle again and again in a 90-minute showdown between unhappy, discordant parents.  That this savage and often childish duel develops against Mark Thompson's blood red backdrop and rock-textured walls is a dead-on mirror of the state of the participants' innards.   


After Benjamin -- son to Annette (Annie Potts) and Alan (Jimmy Smits) -- knocks out two teeth of Henry's -- son to Veronica (Christine Lahti) and Michael (Ken Stott) -- during a playground brawl, the parents of the aggressor visit the home of the victim to come to a resolution.  However, through polite small talk that often erupts into verbal beatings, it's quickly evident that the parents disagree on which son occupies each role.   


All dressed modestly in dark clothing -- with the exception of Veronica wearing textured stockings and a skirt with a hemline short enough to befit her immaturity -- the cast's outbursts of emotion would be a complete surprise were it not for the title of the show, press from the cast that preceded them, and some clever and prickly dialogue translated by Christopher Hampton.  What proceeds after the first verbal strike is attack after attack of each other's parenting skills, followed by attacks on the liquor cabinet and the household décor. 


All four actors jump into the task of soiling their cordial, exterior suits, ripping them off, and baring way more than one should in strange company.   Although each performance is rich, Smits' flippant attitude is especially powerful in contrast to everyone else's histrionics.  When you get past the notion that the visit is prolonged much longer than necessary and that the dynamics are reminiscent of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (with much lighter stakes), you can relax … or not … and enjoy the comedy and pitifulness that ensues.   


Director Matthew Warchus sculpts the mayhem with tag teams that form and change partners as quickly as thoughts, including an onstage brawl that's only a step removed from a wrestling ring.  All stemming from two boys that are never seen, and initiated by projectile vomit that is seen in all its vivid grossness. 


One can't help but peer and glare at the train wreck of events the characters create in God of Carnage.  It feeds our primitive, animalistic nature and allows us to revel in what we spend charitable donations and peace treaty signatures to disengage from.  We may work for non-profits, educate ourselves about the chaos in the world, and vote for armistice, but more often than not, we'll still be suckered in by the allure of violence for the sake of entertainment.


cindypierre @


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