Wednesday, May 18, 2011

theatre review, GOD OF CARNAGE, George Street Playhouse, May 15

Sometimes star casting isn't such a good thing.  Case in point, God of Carnage on Broadway.  Now, I missed the original star studded cast but I did see the second cast which consisted of Christine Lahti, Jimmy Smitts, Annie Potts and Ken Stott (Stott was also in the original London cast).  While all  of them were good in the show, somehow they distracted from the play itself, it was more of a "look at these stars saying and doing outrageous things".  Seeing God of Carnage again, at the George Street Playhouse with a cast of really great actors, and not tv or movie stars, makes the play able to come through.  Maybe it is because the actions of the characters are so outrageous (though, scarily, completely realistic) that having people you don't "know" from somewhere else behaving in such a way grounds the show more in realism and makes it less of a showy acting exercise.

I also think with the cast I saw on Broadway the two married couples just didn't seem to be that realistic of couples, again, that might have to do with having "names" in the cast.  Where as at George Street I completely believed the two couples could have been married in real life.

Now the play itself is a short 75 minute one that shows a meeting of two married couples at one of the couple's houses.  One of their sons has attacked the other with a stick at a public park, injuring the other boy and the injured boys parents have invited the other couple over as a way to "act like adults and not children" to resolve the matter and get the one child to apologize to the other.  Of course, what starts out as a civilized adult meeting slowly turns into the parents acting like children with the couples turning against each other as well as their own spouses with complete mayhem and chaos ensuing.

James Ludwig, Ann Harada, Betsy Aidem
and Christopher Curry
Another reason I think I enjoyed the George Street production more than Broadway could be that the smaller and more intimate George St space makes you feel like you are in the living room with the two couples.  Where as on Broadway, they just seemed like they were on a stage.  The set for George Street is similar to the one on Broadway, but somehow worked better with the staging of the show.

Written by Yasmina Reza and translated into English by Christopher Hampton (he also translated Yasmina's hit play Art), the play has been tightly directed by David Saint.  Betsy Aidem and Christopher Curry perfectly capture the older couple who's son has been attacked by the younger couple's son.  They say all the right things and come across as the perfect hosts, but are clearly on a mission to get an apology at any cost.  Ann Harada and James Ludwig are at first sincere in being invited to this meeting, but Harada's quiet demeanor is quickly shaken by the onslaught of cell phone calls that her husband gets.  Those calls stop the dialogue, but the way the three adults act when having to endure yet another phone call is so spot on.  We've all been in this situation before, having to try not to "listen" in on a conversation where one side of that conversation is taking place right in front of you.

I love how the story keeps changing as new information is revealed and how one character will side with another, and not always the one that character is married to!  I also love how passionate the characters are.  And all four of the actors through themselves into their roles, even more realistically then in the Broadway cast I say.  They bring out the humor and the point of the play beautifully.

This is a show that is now getting produced at many regional theaters, hopefully they all achieve the calibre of the George Street production.  A definite don't miss production.

Official Show Site

Amazon link for God of Carnage

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