GOD OF CARNAGE AT MTC
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) is currently presenting an interesting version of “God of Carnage” by the internationally known French writer, Yasmina Reza. The theme brings to mind the saying, “like father like son” -- only in this case it compares two sets of parents and their two children. The parents meet in order to solve their children’s playground dispute in a peaceful manner but, instead of continuing to enjoy polite talk over cake and coffee, emotions rise to the surface, faults and frailties are exposed, and all the characters end up defending themselves and their children. The point is made that no matter your social standing in any civilized society, we still have to overcome our aggressive, savage instincts.
What’s most interesting about this cleverly constructed play is that the subject matter is common to all civilizations -- hence the play’s wide popularity in various countries and cultures. For example, one of the unseen children referred to in the play (could either be a boy or a girl) hits another with a stick and injures two teeth. Depending where the play is performed, the stick could be made of bamboo, a baseball bat, a wooden doll, or a clay pot. The parent’s occupations, race, and social standing can also be easily adapted to various cultures and depending on the circumstances, these elements can be made even more controversial.
This reviewer has seen a biting version of “Carnage” that depicted a confrontation between black and white parents.The unexpected and amusing twist was that a black person played the lawyer, Alan, and this gave the work an entirely different slant. At MTC the roles are played by an all white cast. Therefore, in the translated version by Christopher Hampton, which was used at MTC, the dialog concerning which one was the better playground (“better” area) that their kids played in had less punch -- also, the word “coon” was quickly skipped over.
As “Annette,” Marty Bongfeldt’s constantly changing emotions are very believable. In this intimate theatre, you can almost smell and feel the slime produced during her explosive, vomiting scene. Likeable, Jim Schilling is amusingly forced to clean up after his guest’s mess while trying to maintain a congenial attitude throughout the play -- that is, until he too explodes. John Flaherty plays the distracted lawyer, “Alan” (Annette’s husband) who is more interested in talking to his clients via the cell phone than the actions taking place, and Cynthia Hannah is the flustered hostess, “Hannah.” The cast has appeared at MTC’s many successful productions and is directed by Mark Torres.
Plays to Feb. 16; Tickets: 203-454-3883
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” February/2014