God of Carnage is the final show of Village Playhouse’s final season in the Ansonborough Square plaza that they’ve called home for 11 seasons. It’s a fitting swan song for the company (not counting this summer’s Red White and Cash fundraising show) that leaves us wondering if things will be different when the company starts next season from its new Woolfe Street location downtown. Inevitably there will be changes, but if God of Carnage is any indication, director Keely Enright and the Rep are planning to keep attending to business as usual.
God of Carnage is a powerful, insightful show about the human condition and the subtleties of social man. It’s also just about four adults acting like children. Two couples meet to discuss an incident that occurred on a playground between their children. One child hit the other with a stick. Veronica and Michael (played by Cristy Landis and David Reinwald) want to handle the situation like civilized adults. Alan and Annette (played by Josh Wilhoit and Keely Enright) are the parents of the attacker, and are thus invited over to answer for their son. Things don’t stay civil between the two couples for very long.
Yasmina Reza’s play originated in Zurich in 2006 before opening in Paris in 2008. The first English production appeared in London in 2008, and the play opened for American audiences in 2009. The Broadway run won three Tony Awards, including Best Play. Film audiences will know the recent adaptation by famed director Roman Polanski.
Carnage is a simple show. Four actors, one set, and a 90-minute conversation is all you’re in for. But what a whirlwind that 90 minutes is. Some critics originally dismissed the show as shallow arrogance, and some audiences disliked the simplicity of the film. You’ll hear no such complaints from me. God of Carnage is wonderful. The breakdown of tact and civility when four strangers are brought together is a pleasure to watch. By play’s end, the fighting between the children is absolutely dwarfed by the dysfunctionality of their parents. We may get older, but acting like disgruntled children always lurks right below the surface.
The cast is solid. In a piece like this, the acting is everything. There are no distractions, and the play hinges on the interactions between participants. No one disappoints. Cristy Landis is hilarious as the uptight Veronica, the paragon of human virtue. As the characters get drunk and the play devolves into Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf territory, Landis peels back the curtains on Veronica’s neurosis, displaying the underlying rage.
In contrast, David Reinwald plays her husband Michael with an enduring charm that persists even when he gets rid of all pretenses and explains his baser nature. Keely Enright, the show’s director, plays Annette, the mother of the attacking child. While a bit too timid in the role at times, and a bit over-exaggerated at others, when she’s on she’s a firecracker and a great foil for Veronica. Josh Wilhoit brings a nice disconnection to Alan that works to add fuel to the fire of the proceedings. His phone conversations aren’t as natural as I would have liked, but his indifference to the quarrels of the children and the implications they present is solid.
Go see God of Carnage. See it for the stellar writing and great reflections on our ideals of civilized discourse. See it for the strong acting from four of the town’s best performers. See it because this is the last show of the Village Playhouse as you know them now, before the carnage begins.