Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
God of Carnage
Shakespeare & Company Artistic Director Allyn Burrows has assembled a cast, including himself, of men and women who have been with the company for a minimum of 19 years. They know one another, and have been on stage and/or behind the scenes in various roles or capacities. No wonder the comic timing, assisted by Reggie Life's detailed direction, is precise and paramount. Yasmina Reza, the Parisian writer, scripted God of Carnage and it is not surprising that this work was a Tony Award winner. Christopher Hampton's translation, from French to English, is excellent.
Alan Raleigh (Allyn Burrows) and his wife Annette (Kristin Wold) are in the Brooklyn living room of Veronica Novak (Elizabeth Aspenlieder) and her husband Michael (Jonathan Croy). Recently, the sons of these twosomes had an altercation. Somehow or other, young Benjamin Raleigh, wielding a stick, managed to knock loose two teeth belonging to Henry Novak. In the comfortable room, designed by Devon Drohan, the two sets of parents attempt to peacefully deal with the situation.
Michael, a large man who sells toilet parts, frying pans, and the like, is, at first, warm, cordial, inviting, and seemingly a rational presence intent upon resolving the problem. This is an act to cover his true character. Veronica, who seems a bit nervous at first, is writing about Darfur, has expertise when it comes to Africa, knows something about art, and welcomes all.
Alan is preoccupied with his cell phone, which goes off repeatedly; he takes each call and, as a lawyer for a medicinal drug company, pursues his current case. The goings-on, for him, are a distraction. He's something of a verbal counter-punchernot the most likable person in the room. Yet, he minces no words when saying, "Our son is a savage." Annette defines herself by saying "I'm in wealth management." With her hair pulled back, the actress seems conservative and even a bit icy, but this veneer doesn't last long.
Anyone who has observed contemporary middle-class/middle-age couples will appreciate the predicament and recognize the scene. For quite some time, those on stage maintain civility. This facade is lifted when each individual expresses a gut-level response to either a partner or someone else. The action accelerates, includes a fair amount of drinking, fisticuffs-light, and rapid banter.
Aspenlieder is a deft comic actress and a fine fit for Veronica. The script eventually provides her opportunities to demonstrate, through facial gesture as well as dialogue, her gift for the genre. Croy's Michael exhibits a slow burn that builds to the point where he discards the spiffy attire costumer Charlotte Palmer-Lane provides, and announces that he is a Neanderthal. He has already confessed that when he was a boy, he led a gang. Wold, playing Annette, is married to a man who is obsessed with attorney world. Finally, she is able to release some of her inner tension by going physical with objects. Alan, of all, presents the man he really is. What you see is what you get and, in this case, it's a guy, not especially liberated, who tends, first and foremost, to his job.
The knowledge the actors possess of one another as well as individual and group feel for this stage allow the production to flourish. Reza's play is filled with innuendo and the foursome realize the promise of words and hidden meaning, too. The evening might prompt you, as it did for someone seated near me, to mutter "I cannot stand him" or, for that matter, her! God of Carnage, in the Berkshires, is a neat treat.
God of Carnage continues at the Bernstein Theatre on the grounds of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. The show runs through October 8th, 2017. For tickets, call (413) 637-3353 or visit shakespeare.org.