God of Carnage – Review by Nancy Sasso Janis

The Arts at Angeloria’s, a unique Southington venue, is finally presenting “God of Carnage,” a play by Yazmina Reza that won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play. The dark comedy, which is raw, revealing and very funny, was translated from the French by Christopher Hampton.

Producer Lori Holm had to postpone the production of the play due to unforeseen circumstances regarding one of the four cast members. Unable to understudy such a huge role in a short time, the show was rescheduled to open last weekend in the black box theater.

The script is the story of one evening in the lives of two couples who meet to discuss an incident on the playground involving their 11- year-old sons. The four parents agree to discuss the incident civilly but, as the night drags on and alcohol is imbibed, the polite veneers break down with a vengeance. The parents become increasingly childish and the meeting devolves into chaos.

Actor, writer, director and singer Joey Abate, 24, admits in his director’s letter that when he first read the play, he read it as a drama. Nonetheless, Abate has directed the play with an eye to bringing out all of the comedy in the tense extended conversations. He ends with “So, as you watch the two couples presented before you playing pretend, and as you leave to go home afterwards, I’d like you to quietly but actively ask yourself: what do we know?”

This wonderful cast makes the most of their strongly drawn characters.

Cristin Daly returns to this stage to take on the role of the mother of the injured boy, Veronica, and is convincing as the woman writing a book about Darfur.

Daly was part of the “Mamma Mia!” cast this summer, as well as portraying Madame in “Cinderella” this summer at Seven Angels Theatre. Daly, who is a music teacher in Litchfield by day, writes that playing Veronica has been a fun and challenging experience and that she has enjoyed taking on this meaty role.

Kevin Pelkey plays Veronica’s husband, a self-made wholesaler with an unwell mother who gets plenty of laughs. Pelkey was last seen as Harry Bright in The Arts at Angeloria’s “Mamma Mia!” and directed “One Slight Hitch: in Milford, as well as designing and building sets for East Bound Theatre and Fairfield Center Stage.

Jason Michael takes on the role of the lawyer Alan Raleigh who is attached to his cell phone during the entire play. In his bio, Michael includes an apt description of this venue: “This oasis, where people of all creed, colors and preferences can gather to create art and take refuge from a world that lately seems to be too much, is given freely and without expectations.

Nicole Zolad plays the mother of the perpetrator, Annette Raleigh who is in “wealth management,” actually just her husband’s wealth. One of the central dramatic moments of the play occurs when Annette vomits on stage, all over the coffee table and books.

Zoland returns to the black box to be part of what she calls a “challenging ensemble piece.” At this venue, the actress played Anne in “La Cage aux Folles,” Ali in “Mamma Mia!” and the restaurateur in “She Loves Me.”

The director, a graduate of Marymount Manhattan, played Jean Michel in “Le Cage,” and Lori (“Angeloria”) Holm served as the producer of the production The contemporary costumes were coordinated by Kim Turret, with lighting and sound designed by Peter Weidt. The set was designed and constructed by Abate and Holm to fit the tight space of the black box and somehow make it look spacious.

Sincere condolences to Holm, the executive and artistic director of The Arts at Angeloria’s, who was unable to be present for the opening weekend due to the death of her beloved mother.

The brilliance of “God of Carnage” continues on the Arts at Angeloria’s black box stage through Oct. 2. Tickets at theartsatangelorias.com.