Reviewed by James Karas
Studio 180 gave a creditable production of Yasmina Reza’s fascinating play, The God of Carnage at the Panasonic Theatre. The production and the performances, while good, failed to ignite the script.
Reza has the ability to develop a discussion and a full-blown plot from what appears to be meagre material. In her best-known play ‘Art’ the plot was based on the discussions and arguments among three friends over the purchase of a painting by one of them.
In The God of Carnage an 11-year old boy strikes another boy with a stick after an argument in the park. The second boy ends up with a swollen lip and two broken teeth. The parents of the boys, polite, civilized, decent people, meet to discuss the incident.
The parents of the attacking boy are Alan (John Bourgeois), a lawyer, and his wife Annette (Sarah Orenstein), who manages her husband’s wealth. The parents of the victim are Michael (Tony Nappo), a businessman, and Veronica (Linda Kash), a writer with a special interest in Africa who is writing a book about Darfur.
The discussion moves from politesse to pettiness, from civility to childishness with numerous dashes to the sidelines involving Alan on his cell phone to deal with his legal work and Michael to deal with his ill mother.
At one point Veronica lets out a spray of violent vomit and that may well be the climax of the play or the total deterioration of the discussion.
The incident between the children becomes a catalyst for revealing the characters and the relations of the two couples. Bourgeois is good as the self-absorbed lawyer who is dealing with a pharmaceutical company that appears to operate on less than ethical standards. He gives the image that some people have of lawyers as manipulators and perhaps dishonest tricksters. Nappo’s Michael is a bit of a Neanderthal underneath and Kash as his wife hides more hypocrisy than fervour. Orenstein as Annette is classy and high-toned until she gets a couple of drinks.
Joel Greenberg directs but is not able to get all the laughs or create a satisfactory atmosphere for the play.
A long time ago, a client walked into my office with an “invitation” to show up in criminal court in a few days. He was very gentlemanly and told me the story about his son getting into a fight with another boy.
He felt that this was clearly wrong and he took it upon himself to call the other boy’s parents in order to discuss the incident. That is what civilized people do, right? He wanted to set an example to his son about good behavior.
He went to the boy’s parents to have a civilized discussion but he encountered serious disagreement about the facts of the fight. The civilized discussion became an argument, the argument became quite heated and ….
“What happened then?” I asked him.
“I punched him out” replied my gentle client. “Now I have to go to court for trying to be civilized.”
That is another way of treating an incident like the one Reza took up for her play.
The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza ran from November 23 to December 15, 2013 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1Z9.