Pittsburgh Public Theater serves up Yasmina Reza's juicy God of Carnage rare, but for director Ted Pappas and cast it's all in the
presentation. This stellar production, now in its final week (to 6/26), is a must see for all theater fans; for those who
have already gone, it's worth seeing again. Mr. Pappas's brisk and fluid staging is a marvel in its physicality.
While a movie may be in the offing, this is a work of art which can best be savored during a live performance.
Ms. Reza's dark comedy about an offstage childhood fight which
quickly devolves into a proxy battle among and between their respective parents, peels off the many layers of polite society
before going native. The stakes are raised and raised again as each character tells the other just what she or he thinks,
much to the delight of the audience. Sides change and bonds are formed at the drop of a ... well, no spoilers here.
Along the way, class, morality, gender, and family values are sent up with verbal salvos, fistic flourishes - fur and
flowers will fly - and all manner of body language will be on constant display. The rapier dialogue is so much raw meat
for the actors to sink their teeth into and run, and that they do. But the quieter moments have much to recommend them,
particularly when these egocentric characters claim their due.
Each of the well-cast ensemble brings something to the table, but Deirdre Madigan is outstanding
as Veronica, the irremediably civilizing force amongst the primitive elements of her social milieu. Opposed by obtuse
attorney Alan, for whom David Whalen draws on his inner caveman and hubby Michael who is given a Cable Guy portrayal by Ted
Koch, Ms. Madigan weathers the indifference and scorn across the octaves of her emotional range. These macho men are
tethered by technology (the new emasculator?) - Alan by the corporate maw, Michael by maternal apron strings. When she
later clashes with Susan Angelo, a comically emetic Annette, a wealth manager whose portfolio cannot withstand much stress
testing, some of the play's best lines are delivered from the distaff side.
Scenic designer Anne Mundell has created a balanced tableau set - suitable for much acting
out by the characters - with a monstrously torn curtain of a backdrop which Phil Monat lights progressively from brown to
red to heighten the mood. Tribal rhythms of Zach Moore move from Africa to somewhere in the Caribbean. And costumer
Mr. Pappas accentuates the characters as necessary to bring out, but not obscure, the story.
By the finale, each of the characters is hunkered into a worldview of her or his spouses.
The hard lesson of socialization, according to Ms. Reza, is one of cooptation along with survival. And that is one we
as humans have a hard time swallowing.
Some of language
and circumstances resist translation if not transposition, moving from a Parisian arrondissement to Cobble Hill Park Brooklyn
by way of the West End of London. Still, you'll more than overlook this for an all too human unfolding of the modern condition.
Photo: Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
© John F. Glass, June 22, 2011 - All rights reserved