Thursday, February 12, 2015

GOD OF CARNAGE • Stray Dog Theatre

It's funny how a day of good intentions can go down the crapper so quickly sometimes, isn't it? That's the kind of day the Novaks and the Raleighs are having in Stray Dog's current production, Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage." A mini-brawl between the parents' kids sets the stage for a civilized meeting of adults that turns into a rum-soaked night where the pretense of decorum goes bye-bye.

Alan and Annette Raleigh (Stephen Peirick and Michelle Hand) are visiting the posh Brooklyn apartment of Michael and Veronica Novak (Michael Juncal and Sarajane Alverson). Benjamin, the Raleigh's kid, hit the Novak's kid, Henry, in the face with a stick, knocking two of his teeth out, and now the parents are getting together to discuss the incident. The already strained conversation about how to deal with the fallout between their children gives way to offerings of fancy French desserts and comparisons about the qualities of neighborhood parks, then soon bends to tirades, vomiting, and the innocent destruction of tulips. On the face of it, there's not much to this play, but the premise sets up a downward spiral of events that plays to that little slice in all of us that likes seeing things blow up.

(l to r) Michelle Hand (Annette), Stephen Peirick (Alan),
Michael Juncal (Michael) and Sarajane Alverson (Veronica).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Veronica Novak, a high-minded writer -- intensely interested in Darfur and a firm believer in the "soothing power of culture", is played with a haughty chill by Alverson, and her husband Michael, more of a regular guy who sells domestic hardware, is brought to life by Juncal, with charming appeal. His natural style and mannerisms remind me of the late, great James Gandolfini, who played the role on Broadway. Alan Raleigh is a lawyer tied to his constantly ringing cell phone. He's representing a drug company whose product leaves people bumping into furniture, and Peirick plays him with a fitting tone of arrogance. Alan's wife Annette, played with long-suffering reserve by Hand, is a wealth manager, who calmly withstands her husband's behavior until she erupts in a hilarious fit of discontent. The explosions seemed a tad cautious on opening night, but the performances, under Gary F. Bell's direction, provide a satisfying amount of voyeuristic, "fly-on-the-wall" pleasure.

(l to r) Sarajane Alverson (Veronica), Michael Juncal (Michael),
Stephen Peirick (Alan) and Michelle Hand (Annette).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Rob Lippert brings his usual touch to the scenic design, creating a stylish apartment that speaks to the taste of its owners, and is nicely lit by Tyler Duenow, with Bell providing the costume design.

This 90 minute one-act makes for an entertaining study in people behaving badly -- well worth the price of admission. It's at Tower Grove Abbey until the 21st. Check it out!


(l to r) Sarajane Alverson (Veronica), Stephen Peirick (Alan),
Michael Juncal (Michael) and Michelle Hand (Annette).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Written by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton 
Directed by Gary F. Bell 
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through February 21 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Saturday, February 21 at 2pm

Sarajane Alverson (Veronica), Michael Juncal (Michael), Michelle Hand (Annette) and Stephen Peirick (Alan).

Scenic design by Rob Lippert; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; costume design by Gary F. Bell; sound design by Justin Been; property design by Justin Been, Gary F. Bell and Jay V. Hall; stage manager, Justin Been.

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