Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: "God of Carnage"


Recently I saw the hit Broadway play God of Carnage by French playwright Yasmina Reza, starring Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, Marica Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini. Davis/Daniels and Harden/Gandolfini play married couples brought together after the son of one couple has wacked two teeth out of the son of the other in a school yard fight. Set in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the action takes place over 90 uninterrupted minutes in the living room of Harden and Gandolfini's home as the couple try to resolve the issue -- and it goes wayyyyyy down hill from there.

There's no real story in this play. It's all character and incident and action and reaction. A true comedy of errors. There's lots of one liners, gags, and bizarre situations that fuels the drama to its strange conclusion. The play starts with the couple being agreeable and polite to each other but then misunderstandings and old resentments and problems in both marriages surface and everything devolves into chaos. The point of the play is that no matter how civilized we human beings try to be, no matter the institutions we create, no matter if we marry or have children, we are all, at the end of the days, selfish animals driven by primordial instincts. We all worship at the alter of a god of carnage, praying to our own savage needs.

With its high profile cast and multiple awards, God of Carnage has received lots of attention and critical praise. I've probably never known so much about a show before seeing it. It was a lot of fun and I liked it a lot and performances are, as to be expected, amazing. Daniels is pitch-perfect as an insufferable Yuppie lawyer, Hope Davis is tragic as his miserable wife (who projectile vomits during the show), and Jame Gandolfini is hilarious as the husband of the kid who got beaten up and finds his world spinning out of control. But the real scene stealer is Marcia Gay Harden (who won a Tony for her performance) as Gandolfini's wife who is trying to hold the situation together -- and failing miserably. Yasmina Reza's creates wonderfully dimensional characters and the fast-pacing action makes for a big emotional roller coaster. If you want a theater experience that's really an experience, see God of Carnage.

1 comment:

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