Friday, October 21, 2011

GOD OF CARNAGE • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

All of us have, at some point, had one of those, "Man, what an effed up evening that was!  What the hell just happened?" kind of experiences.  This play is kinda like that.  Written by Yasmina Reza and translated from French by Christopher Hampton, it opened on Broadway in 2009, scoring Tony Awards for best play, best actress and best direction.

The Raleighs are getting together at the Brooklyn home of the Novak's because the Novak's son has had two teeth knocked out as a result of a playground fight with the Raleigh's kid.  <-- Yes, really long sentence.  Alan Raleigh (Anthony Marble) is a lawyer, constantly interrupting the proceedings with cell phone calls about a drug he's representing that has recently been found to cause some bothersome side-effects.  His wife Annette (Susan Louise O'Connor) deals in wealth management.  Veronica Novak (Eva Kaminsky) is writing a book about Darfur, and her husband Michael Novak (Triney Sandoval) sells domestic hardware.  They meet each other with the best of intentions, but with the help of ample amounts of rum, these four upper-middle class adults jettison their civilized guises to expose their untamed and wickedly universal selves underneath.

Susan Louise O'Connor (Annette Raleigh),
Anthony Marble (Alan Raleigh), Eva Kaminsky (Veronica Novak)
and Triney Sandoval (Michael Novak).
©Photo by Sandy Underwood
Couples gang up against couples, the women gang up against the men, common ground is stumbled upon and then immediately abandoned, and the neanderthal in all is revealed.  During the course of the afternoon, discussions about African culture, social responsibility, molars and clafouti give way to tantrums, taunting, ranting and puking.  It's quite engrossing watching the day devolve.

The shrewd direction of Edward Stern keeps the action at a perfect pace, although a couple of the performances sometimes seemed a little "zero to sixty" too fast.  The marvelous set by Narelle Sissons is inviting and upscale, and the lighting design by Kirk Bookman & Steve O’Shea, along with costume design by Gordon DeVinney, set a perfect note on which to start off the festivities.  All of the performances were strong.  Anthony Marble as Alan Raleigh was reserved enough in the beginning, that by the time he lets loose, it's very funny and rewarding.  Susan Louise O'Connor as his wife, Annette Raleigh, does a complete 180 during the course of the play -- starting off seemingly very meek, but ending up anything but by the end.  Triney Sandoval as Michael Novak was the perfect "guy's guy", and it was great fun watching Eva Kaminsky's Veronica Novak have a major meltdown right in front of you.

Susan Louise O'Connor (Annette Raleigh)
and Eva Kaminsky (Veronica Novak).
©Photo by Sandy Underwood
Now, before I conclude, can I just bitch about a couple of audience members for a minute?  Please and thank you.

So, in my infamous Theatre Etiquette post (okay, not really infamous), I made a comment about how it's okay to laugh during a show because of the fact that I find so many audiences here completely unresponsive.  Well, there's that, and then there's the other end of that -- like the woman seated to my left, who broke out into uncontrollable hee-haws five minutes into the play.  Okay so here's the deal -- if you're truly moved to respond during a show, great!  I love that.  I also totally get nervous laughter.  Lord knows I've let out my fair share of nervous or inappropriate laughter during a show.  But then there's that, "before the ball's even hit, I'm gonna guffaw at the windup of the pitch, so everyone will know how clever I am."  *sigh*  I've got clever for you -- relax, shut your pie hole, get engaged and quit trying to pretend you're engaged.  K?  You know the type -- don't even.  Then there's the guy sitting to my buddy's right.  An approximately 237 year old man who felt compelled to say, "Uh oh", or, "Here we go", every eight minutes.  That, or he repeatedly explained the physical action going on onstage to his wife.  Yeah dude.  We saw that too.  STFU.  I can't help it you don't have verbal interaction with your wife at home.  Please don't choose to have it at the theatre during a performance.  I'm sorry.  It's hard for me to let this stuff go.  I was so looking forward to moving away from these "noisemakers" at intermission, only to sadly discover there was no intermission.  Again -- I don't want to judge how anyone responds to a show.  It's all so subjective.  And although I clearly am judging, whatever.  We all know these people.

Anthony Marble (Alan Raleigh),Triney Sandoval (Michael Novak),
Susan Louise O'Connor (Annette Raleigh)
and Eva Kaminsky (Veronica Novak).
©Photo by Sandy Underwood
Anyhoo, GOD OF CARNAGE is very entertaining in its revelations, and sincere in the responsive chords it plucks.  If you've ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of one of those, "What the hell just happened?" kind of days, then check it out.  It will be at the Rep till November 6th!  And don't be afraid to "shush" someone if you have to.  :)


Written by Yasmina Reza; Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Edward Stern
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through November 6 | tickets: $19 - $72
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Eva Kaminsky (Veronica Novak), Anthony Marble (Alan Raleigh), Susan Louise O'Connor (Annette Raleigh) and Triney Sandoval (Michael Novak).

Scenic design by Narelle Sissons; costume design by Gordon DeVinney; co-lighting design by Kirk Bookman & Steve O’Shea; stage manager, Glenn Dunn.

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