A French playwright, novelist, and actress, Yasmina Reza clearly has a keen eye for the humor inherent in apparently commonplace situations which trigger contemporary middle class anxieties and lots of laughs. GOD OF CARNAGE is proof positive of author Reza’s facility in making everyday communications blossom into rich fonts of satirical splendor. What is especially telling about Reza’s talent is her ability to maintain finesse and truth across widely differing cultures – all the while keeping the audience entertained and in stitches.
Even though her discerning eye was focused on France, Reza’s tale has proven universal. These same behaviors seem to ring true way past the French borders – as demonstrated by the multiple translations which have delighted audiences across the globe. Translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton, GOD OF CARNAGE was a smash hit in 2008 in London, where it won the Olivier Award for best comedy. When the play came to Broadway in 2009, it won Tony Awards for best play, best actress (Marsha Gay Harden), and best director (Matthew Warchus). GOD OF CARNAGE played to full houses in 2011 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. and this crowd-pleaser is finally back in Los Angeles at the Odyssey Theatre courtesy of Foursome Productions.
It is fall in Brooklyn, New York. Eleven-year-old Benjamin and Henry had a playground fight this afternoon, a fight which culminated in Benjamin hitting Henry with a stick and breaking his two front teeth. Like the good parents that they are, Henry’s mom and dad invite Benjamin’s mom and dad over to their place to see if they can figure out what happened and brainstorm a solution to the problem. After all, they are civilized people and capable of rationally discussing the event. But are they? Especially when the topic for discussion concerns their darling sons. From a sophisticated get-together between Veronica and Michael Novak (Lisa LoCicero and Matthew Downs) and Annette and Alan Raleigh (Leilani Smith and Jack Esformes), the meeting soon devolves into a battleground where a comedy of manners turns out to be very unmannerly indeed. From Type A attorney Alan, who can’t bear to be separated from his cell phone, to pseudo-sophisticate Veronica, who is penning a book about Darfur – from wealth management specialist Annette, who manages her rich husband’s finances, to self-made businessman/ wholesaler Michael, who is sure that a hefty shot at the right time is the best medicine – the scene descends into outlandishly amusing forays in every direction.
Director Peter Allas helms the production with consummate skill. To quote a cast member, “Peter gave us the room to find our characters and make them our own.” The talented quartet of actors add their distinctive flavors into the perfect Carnage stew – they serve up just the right chemistry to make the events bubble and sizzle. Tyler Scrivner’s scenic design is cozy, warm, and inviting – a perfect setting for the excitement to follow. Mylette Nora’s costumes subtly enhance the principals, while Gavan Wyrick’s lighting and Jesse Mandapat’s sound blend right in. This is a well written and highly perceptive piece which is also maximally entertaining and lots of fun. Just the right formula for a great night out at the theater.
GOD OF CARNAGE runs through May 29, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. GODS OF CARNAGE is a visiting production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets are $45. For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 Ext. 2 or go online.