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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

God of Carnage

Also see Susan's coverage of the 2012 Helen Hayes Awards

God of Carnage
Paul Morella, Naomi Jacobson, Vanessa Lock and Andy Brownstein
Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage is a banquet for four actors and a director with a clear vision. Luckily, Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has director Joe Calarco and an ensemble consisting of the estimable Paul Morella, Vanessa Lock, Andy Brownstein and Naomi Jacobson to drive this story of parents acting like combative children.

While Reza wrote the play in French and set it in Paris, translator Christopher Hampton moved it to Brooklyn for the Broadway production. That said, the phenomenon of adults behaving badly—class tension, contentious political views, the minefield over how to raise a child—is not unique to any one country.

Michael and Veronica Novak (Brownstein, Jacobson) have invited Alan and Annette Raleigh (Morella, Lock) to their apartment to discuss a playground fight in which the Raleighs' son hit the Novaks' son in the face, breaking two teeth. All four are determined to take the high road, but they all have annoying quirks that soon grind down the others.

Michael, burly and plain-spoken, made his money in the wholesale hardware business, while Veronica is writing a book about the unrest in Darfur and adores fine art. Alan is a sleek corporate lawyer who spends much of the visit advising a client in a series of cell phone calls; Annette is a "wealth management specialist," impeccably dressed and unflappable. Before long, the elegant off-white living room doesn't look remotely pristine, what with people standing on the white sofa and whacking each other with feather-stuffed cushions.

James Kronzer has designed another character-revealing set, from the silvery Art Nouveau wallpaper to the glass vases and coffee-table books. Kathleen Geldard's costume design helps delineate the characters, even coordinating Lock's royal blue suit with the stripes in Morella's tie.

As with last season's production of Reza's Art, Signature has chosen to stage God of Carnage in the small, even slightly claustrophobic, ARK Theatre. This allows the audience to feel a connection with the actors: the pinched look that sometimes comes over Lock's face; the physical awkwardness that Brownstein, a tall, large man, shows—he's too big for his own living room; the crumbling veneer of Morella's politeness; and Jacobson's sometimes insufferable nobility.

Signature Theatre
God of Carnage
April 10th - June 24th
By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton
Alan Raleigh: Paul Morella
Veronica Novak: Naomi Jacobson
Michael Novak: Andy Brownstein
Directed by Joe Calarco
ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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