‘Carnage’: A living room brawl, well acted

By Jesse Blair, For the Beacon | Apr 18, 2018
Courtesy of: James Sipes The “God of Carnage” cast includes Phillip Keiman (behind sofa), Debra Rich Gettelman and Jalyyn Green.

The Phoenix Theater’s presentation of Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage” is a one-act, 85-minute living room brawl. But instead of fists, these two sets of parents go to blows with in-your-face insults, backhanded compliments while constantly changing sides. The confrontations switch so quickly it’s difficult to follow who’s mad at whom, but that’s the whole point.

The story takes place in a living room and centers around a playground dispute between two sons, one of whom gets a few teeth knocked out by the other. The parents of the children get together to discuss the dispute, hopefully in a manner that is more grown up than their children. But it doesn’t take long before the parents have disputes of their own.

The injured party’s mother Veronica (Debra Rich Gettleman) says that her son’s face is disfigured. Her husband Michael (Jalyn Green) amends that claim by saying it is temporarily disfigured. The assailant’s father Alan (Philip Keiman) denies that his face is disfigured.

“You haven’t seen his face!” Veronica bites back.

Veronica and Allan’s spat continues later on: “He’s lost two incisors!” Veronica says. “We’ll get him new ones.” “Better ones,” Allan pleads.

The civil nature of the meeting is forever lost after Allan’s wife Annette (Amy Gentry) complains about feeling sick. At first it seemed she was merely trying to get her husband’s attention (who was on his umpteenth business call). But Allan knew this was no joke, as he put the phone down and told her to focus on something. However, it was too late.  Annette vomits into Veronica’s prized apple and pear dessert.

From that point on, it was no surprise to see the couple’s crawl around on the floor drunk, attempt to destroy personal property or curse at and give each other the finger. Take note – if you haven’t already – that this is not a children’s show and contains adult language.

The energy and stamina of the four-person cast is remarkable. With no intermission or scene changes, these veteran actors performed with hardly a misstep or flubbed line. There is no need to leave your local community to find serious and talented actors who can pull off a story that is heavily dependent on the art of acting.

The story’s style reminded me of the old Cary Grant film “His Girl Friday,” which relied on office banter and witty dialogue to push the narrative, as well as frequent phone interruptions, which this story also had.

“God of Carnage” is built on repetition. How many times will Allan and Annette grab their things before they finally leave? Will Allan’s phone ever quit ringing? How many more disputes will they have? Is Annette really going to throw up again?

This story is for people who have a love and appreciation for the craft of theater. There are no song or dance numbers, no three-act structure, and no hero-themed character arc. There are no conventional storylines to hide behind.

The play is about four actors who continuously change gears between sober and drunk, yelling and crying, boasting and pouting, and so on. While in the process they make no progress in actually solving their children’s disputes.

They just create a myriad disputes of their own, some of which they may forget after sobering up.

Where: Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave., Edmonds

When: Through April 29. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $19-$24

Information: tptedmonds.org, 206-533-2000

 

 

 

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