God of Carnage
April 11-13, 18-20, 25-28, May 2-4, 9-11 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee: April 28, 2 p.m.
By ARTSpulse contributor Lauren Housman
Theatre B is ending its 2012-2013 season with Yasmina Reza’s worldwide hit, God of Carnage. Reza’s play has been translated into 35 languages and produced all over the world, from Switzerland, France, Britain and Ireland to Canada and North America, and even in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania. God of Carnage has also been translated into film with Roman Polanski’s 2011 movie Carnage.
The play made its debut in Zurich in 2006, saw premieres in Paris and London in 2008, and then came to Broadway in 2009. It has been the recipient of the Tony Award for best play, the Oliver Award for best new comedy and the Laurence Olivier award for best comedy. But it is a black comedy, or, as translator Christopher Hampton calls it, a “comedy of recognition.”
The play could be considered a four-person character study. Reza’s strongly-written characters and realistic dialogue combined with the universality of their conflict are the focus of God of Carnage. Because every audience member is apt to recognize something within one or more of Reza’s characters, and possibly not like what they see, Hampton’s “comedy of recognition” label is a fitting one.
The catalyst for the play’s continuous action (no intermission — you won’t miss it) is an offstage altercation between two adolescent boys. When two very different sets of parents — lawyer Alan and broker Annette versus salesman Michael and author Veronica — meet to discuss their sons’ behavior, more carnage ensues.
What begins as a struggle drawn over family lines morphs into a gender-based battle before finally degenerating into an every-man-for-himself war. Audiences see the characters dissolve their roles as civilized adults and regress into increasingly childish behavior. The play’s title is originated in a comment that Alan, the lawyer, makes when he discusses man’s inherently violent nature: Alan says that he believes in the God of Carnage. Judging by the characters’ behavior, Reza believes in that God too.
But the man who was to have turned Theatre B into a temple of carnage as the production’s director, Matthew Burkholder, passed away in December. Burkholder had been a Theatre B ensemble member for more than five years, serving the cast and community in various roles including props, puppet and sound designer as well as director. Burkholder worked in Boston and New York before gracing the Midwest with his talents. He left a lot of friends and a large legacy.
Burkholder also left a hit play without a director. And as the saying goes, “The show must go on.” So, Burkholder’s fellow Theatre B ensemble member Brad Delzer has stepped up to direct the production. Delzer has directed plenty of Theatre B productions since he joined the ensemble in 2007. Plays like Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Year of Magical Thinking are already notched into his belt; now he will, albeit a bit unexpectedly, add God of Carnage to his directorial repertoire.
God of Carnage will run for five weeks of foul play. Catch it at Theatre B any weekend between April 11 and May 11.
Image: the cast of God of Carnage (l to r: Tierney Michon, Doug Hamilton, Carrie Wintersteen, Tucker Lucas) rehearses Wednesday night at Theatre B. Photo by Kensie Wallner.