SCRT’s "God of Carnage" unleashes inner caveman
(Brian Kamps, Danny LeMache, Daniela Kaplun
and Kayla Ryan Walsh square off in God of Carnage)
Cynthia Berresse Ploski Art Correspondent The Chronicle-News
(originally published in the 7/27/18 edition of The Chronicle-News) Without this summer’s superlative cast and adept direction by Jamie Billings, the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre’s brilliant diamond of a comedy God of Carnage, opening last Friday, might have just been a lump of coal. After all, what is so funny about four people having a verbal slugfest for 90 minutes? Ah, but such depth, meaning and serious, social comment swims just below the surface of this entertaining, bubbling cauldron! Although the author, Yasmina Reza, wrote it in French, the English translation by Christopher Hampton loses none of the original verve, insight or laughs by traveling across the Atlantic.
Human nature is global.
The play, a 2009 Tony Award winner for Best Comedy, starts civilly enough, when two pairs of adults gather in a Brooklyn apartment to civilly discuss a playground incident.
From their polite conversation over a type of cake called “clafouti” to total disruption of all that is accepted as good behavior, happens in an hour and a half of uninterrupted mayhem. We might have become judgmental over these adults behaving like Neanderthals if we hadn’t been laughing so hard watching it happen.
Michael Novak (Danny LeMache) is a middle class wholesaler of household goods. His artsy writer wife Veronica (Kayla Ryan Walsh) purports to be high minded and empathetic to the problems of the downtrodden, particularly those in Africa.
A little higher on the financial scale are Alan Raleigh (Brian Kamps) and wife Annette (Daniela Kaplun). Brian is a litigation lawyer and Annette is into wealth management.
The incident that has brought them together took place between their 11-year old boys on the school playground. Benjamin, Alan and Annette’s son, hit Henry, the son of Michael and Veronica, with a stick, knocking out his two front teeth.
Intent upon discussing the incident politely, their individual vulnerabilities begin to surface. Michael, who believes that “Might makes Right,” has to wrestle with the guilt inspired by his recent actions. He has, in a fit of annoyance, thrown the family hamster, “Nibbles” into the street to fend for himself.
Veronica upbraids him as a “murderer,” pointing out the emotional harm this crime has caused his 9-year-old daughter.
Brian’s cell phone constantly interrupts the action. Brian is trying to cover up the unacceptable side effects of a drug sold by one of his corporate clients. It can cause ataxia, which is the loss of balance.
Annette’s anger at the constant interruption of Brian’s cell phone, leads up to her eventually grabbing it away from him and throwing it into a vase of tulips.
That’s not the only thing that gets hurled, including a handbag and the contents of Annette’s stomach. Yes, onstage.
No surprise that loss of balance, as metaphor, is the underpinning of this ribald, raucous, deliciously tart and perfectly executed farcical comedy.
Director Billings has allowed each of these talented actors to make personal acting choices, combing through their self-awareness for similarities between their on stage characters and their inner lives.
It is a joy to see Veronica’s mobile expressions racing across her face as they reflect her instant, inner reactions to what is being said onstage; - or the quivers running through Michael’s agile body as he is being verbally attacked by his wife; - or Annette’s shift from repressing the emotions in her body to flinging it in rage upon the board of SCRT’s stage; - or Brian’s cold indifference to the effect that a drug gone wrong might have on other human beings change to horror at what happened to his cell phone.
It is also a joy to see how creatively and professionally the technical support team has endowed the production with values totally commensurate with the fracturing ambience of this emotional, wild, romp on-stage.
From Owen Nuss’s remarkable stage set, that successfully becomes the background of all three SCRT summer productions, to the lighting of G. Austin Allen, which represents through color the progressive power of the God of Carnage to destroy the artificial in our lives, to the sound of the cell phone, under the thumb of Jim Sissons, that almost becomes one of the characters; and with the hard work proficiently executed by Stage Manager Madeleine Blossom, assistant director Linnea Scott and the entire construction crew, this comedic diamond shines brilliantly, while still posing a more serious question:
“Is civility simply a cloak to hide our quivering, naked caveman inner selves, to be thrown off when things get hot?”
God of Carnage gets FIVE STARS! It will be presented, along with the two other SCRT summer productions, in true repertory form throughout the summer.
You can attend this show’s evening performances at 7:30 pm on Saturday, July 28, Friday, August 10 and Saturday, August 18; and at the 2:30 matinee on Sunday afternoon, August 5. God of Carnage is appropriate for older teenagers and adults, but not young children.
For further information or to purchase tickets call the Box Office 719-846-4765, stop by the SCRT Box Office at 131 W Main St, or go online at scrtheatre.com to see more about the actors and creators.