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The Carletonian

ETB Review: “God of Carnage”

<ck – woot woot! And with this term’s line-up about as exciting as I can remember since I’ve been here, you’re going to want to make sure you get yourself down to Little Nourse or over to the Weitz early and often.

Kicking off the season this past weekend was God of Carnage, a sharp send-up of suburban life co-directed by first-years Ethan Ramsay and Patton Small.

The play begins after a playground scrap that results in two teeth knocked from 11-year-old Henry’s mouth, prompting Henry’s helicopter parents to invite the perpetrator’s parents over to mediate their kids’ quarrel.

From the playbill we know that Henry and his assailant won’t actually appear, and so when the show opens with the parents sitting on the living room couch with a prominent booze table standing nearby you knew this was going to be one of those “get drunk, trash the stage and talk about sucky relationships” kind of plays. Think Lord of the Flies meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Playwright Yasmina Reza replicates really well the insufferable small talk and niceties we’ve heard a million times at open houses, community socials and the like. It was so familiar actually that I was pretty surprised to read after that Reza wasn’t American but French (which does explain all the fuss about whatever the heck “clafoutis” is).

Ramsey and Small cast God of Chaos perfectly – Veronica Garcia ’16 played Henry’s overbearing mother (also named Veronica) who occupies her time with concern for Darfur and her son’s dentistry. Patrick Stephen ‘15, in probably his best performance of college thus far, is her gruff, dull-but-likeable husband who keeps forgetting which side he’s supposed to be on.

The other couple is played by Eli Sorich ’17 and Devon Graham ’16. Sorich plays a big-shot lawyer whose parted hair signals his severe indifference to his interlocutors. He spends much of the meeting rudely jabbering to distant Sergeis on his cellphone and is charming precisely because he’s already accepted the fact that he’s so obnoxious.
Graham’s character is probably the sanest of the bunch, but even she loses it midway through the show and voms hilariously over the hosts’ meticulously decorated living room.

Though the actors might have relied a bit too much on the same gestures to express awkwardness during the opening moments of the show and the first few outbursts felt a bit too drastic, by the time the fists and “fucks” began flying freely the play had reached that zone where every single line triggers an eruption of laughter in the audience.

If God of Carange wasn’t “really fucking hilarious” as the playbill announced, it was at least very close, especially in the second half of the show.

Some of the best moments were when Garcia and Graham giggle like girls on the couch at the men below them or when Sorich’s cellphone finally gets shoved into a vase of tulips.

The main themes of the play – guest vs. stranger, men vs. women, West vs. East,  kids vs. adults – are introduced naturally and unpretentiously. No point is heavy-handed.
As is often the case, the lack of a robust plot frees the audience to better appreciate the rhythms of the conversation and acting without the burden of trying to anticipate where things might be going next.

That also meant that the ending was pretty abrupt. Reza seems to indicate no profound epiphany is possible for these characters in such a sheltered suburbia. And so you couldn’t take it seriously when Veronica remarked, “this was the worst day of [their] lives.” Today’s crisis was over missing teeth and a hamster, but tomorrow’s will be some unfair letter grade and the day after the cataclysmic event will be a gluten allergy. Perhaps that’s just the price we pay for freedom.

Two more productions are on tap this weekend. Hannah Neville ‘14 stars in Proof at 7:30 pm. in Weitz 172. Meanwhile, No Exit runs Friday and Saturday night in Little Nourse starting at 7 p.m..Hell is missing these shows.

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