God of Carnage at ICT

What’s worse than boys behaving badly? It’s when their parents get together to resolve, in a civil and polite manner, a dispute between the lads and end up stripping themselves of any social niceties.

French playwright Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage in the translation by Christopher Hampton is a non-stop encounter where scathing words and undermining relentlessness manage to turn a playground dust-up into all out civil war.

Two 11-year olds, each the son of two sets of parents, Annette (Alet Taylor) and David Raleigh (Alet Taylor and David Nevell), and Veronica and Michael Novak (Leslie Stevens and Greg Derelian), get into an altercation in Cobble Hill Park after one boy refuses to let the other join his gang.

Veronica and Michael’s son ends up losing a couple of teeth and they demand restitution. That night both sets of parents converge at the Novak’s to discuss the incident. Polite conversation quickly degenerates into arguments, fights, and attacks – pitting couple against couple and spouse against spouse. From the start, the adults are uncomfortable in this situation.

Alan, a high-power lawyer simply can’t believe he’s at this meeting mediating a dispute between kids, when he’s got better things to do – like covering up for a pharmaceutical corporation that’s about to get into hot water. The more laid-back Michael, a down-to-earth household wholesaler, loathes dealing with it, too, along with a sick mother on the phone.

Reza, an expert in the inner workings of superficial middle-class civility, takes an acid tongue and slowly corrodes away the lacquer of good society – delving into the carnal instincts that have made the carnage god such a powerful deity, despite civilization’s attempts to suppress him. She tackles issues of parental responsibility, painting it with tones of hypocrisy and pretension.

This is the first regional production of the play and International City Theatre has produced an attractive and talented group with director caryn desai (sic) taking the helm. She manages to keeps the play on track, never allowing for any lag, but despite the breezy nature of the play, the satire is almost completely buried and lost in the all-too-calculated performances of the four actors.

It’s not until the centerpiece of the play – Annette vomiting all over the couch, the coffee table, and Veronica’s precious art books (a great stage gag, too!) – that we finally see them comfortably in their characters.

Performances through February 19 at International City Theatre at Long Beach Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, please visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org

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