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God of Carnage

One boy hits another boy, breaking two of his teeth. The next day, the parents of the boy who was hit invite the parents of the hitter around to discuss the situation. Over the next two hours of this one act play, opened this week at the Gielgud Theatre on Shafesbury Ave., the situation deteriorates. The strain in marriages, parenting priorities, past histories, and the world at large show up as politeness dissolves in the face of true personalities. The play is all character study, held together with token plot, but is, nonetheless, a satisfying production. Janet McTeer plays a passionate do-gooder; Ken Stott, her husband is a hardware store owner who embraces his inner coarseness; Tamsin Greig is an uptight wealth manager who does what she ought, but doesn't necessarily like it; and Ralph Fiennes her husband, a lawyer who could care less about the whole meeting and spends most of the time glued to his mobile, helping with PR salvage for a dodgy pharmaceutical company.

The script is translated from the original French, and the play still still set in France. Characters address each other as "M'sieur" and "Madame" even though dialog is in English. These touches only occasionally distracted me, more often rooting the play in its location. I liked many of the ongoing themes, including an inspired use of a hamster. The satire was funny - the audience laughed a lot, whether or not the characters on stage had any reason to do so.

The set was dramatic, a cloud of red up into the eaves, a wall of cracks providing a strong diagona, defining the living room in which all the action occurs, and the strong contrast of the white and off-white sofa, chairs, tables, and tulips. The blocking was well done, a visual flow of changing alliances and interactions.

The play was good - satisfying - but not great. And I would have liked it a whole lot better if it had had no vomit; but then that's always true.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
Reading your description, I'm a little confused--how does a hamster come into this story? And vomit?
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
By the power of conversation. This is why I didn't coherently explain why any of these things relate.

Hamster: The injured boy had a hamster. His father hated it. The other day he'd become so irritated by its noises that he "released it into the wild" by dumping the cage out on the street. The hamster was terrified, but there was no way the father was going to pick it back up again - he was rodent-phobic. By the next morning, it had vanished. They lied to their kids, saying it had escaped and they would find it. The other mother accuses him of being a hamster murderer.... plus further twist of it being a bad pet for a asthmatic boy.

Vomit: The mother of the hitter is feeling queasy, possibly from stress, possibly from the clafouti they ate earlier. She's going to go off to the bathroom, but sits down again to steady herself. She vomits over the coffee table, covered with books, including an old photo catalog which is out of print. She apologizes profusely, of course. Intense cleaning follows, but the mother of the hitee goes temporarily crazy over the damage done thereby to her precious out-of-print catalog. Plot-wise, it's also why the visiting couple don't leave just yet - they keep meaning or trying to - and rotates who's on stage actively for a little while, while cleaning up happens. Later, the mother of the hitter feels queasy again. Later still, so does the other mother.
Apr. 4th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
I see now. I would say those are better than average plot devices. ;)

This plays sounds like an update of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for the parenting set.
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
Sorry, you lost me at Ralph Fiennes. That's when I started drooling on the keyboard and making a noise similar to "humina humina humina."
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
I'm seeing Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum tonight. Will your keyboard be okay, or are we over the worst of the damage thanks to my posts this week?
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
Jeff Goldblum has never attracted me, and Kevin Spacey and I broke up years ago, so we're past the worst of the damage.

I hope to regain my powers of speech in a few hours.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )