One of the characters in Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE (at Next Door Theatre through Nov. 22nd) postulates that the aforementioned god “has ruled uninterruptedly since the dawn of time.” There isn’t any better evidence of that than Reza’s outrageous comedy of bad manners (in a compelling English translation by Christopher Hampton).
After a schoolyard brawl, the parents of the two boys involved in the fracas meet for a civilized discussion about what to do. It doesn’t end up being either civilized or a discussion. To utilize the playwright’s descriptive, the get together is “destabilized” faster than you can say Oskar Kokoschka (the condescending hostess’ favorite painter).
Director Joe Antoun’s glossy production (on Brian Milauskas’ tony living room set) perfectly captures Reza’s sardonic wit and sly trajectory from uncomfortable small talk and feigned courtesy to flaming hostility and full out pandemonium. The adults behaving badly are played by a formidable quartet: Brett Milanowski’s impatient lawyer wants out of the room in the worst way, even before the gloves come off. Milanowski’s body language speaks volumes, right down to a left foot poised mid sole to vacate his chair.
Roz Beauchemin gets the plum role of his financial analyst wife, a woman not afraid to challenge her host’s shortcomings, where sentient beings as well as humans are concerned. Allen E. Phelps is the ‘nihilist” who can’t tolerate either rodents or liberals. Lisa Tucker as his wife is the self appointed expert on all things, especially African culture, who seems even more tightly wound than the other three (but not by much). It’s she who announces, “I have no sense of humor and no intention of acquiring one.”
Thankfully Reza does and she sprinkles it with abandon throughout the unadulterated nastiness. You leave the theater shaking your head and thanking the heavens that you don’t know these people.