GOD OF CARNAGE—Mayhem at Haddonfield Plays and Players

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John Jackowski and Megan Knowlton Balne (left), John Comegno and Cara Hvisdas (right) star in Haddonfield Plays and Players' GOD OF CARNAGE. (Photo credit: Dave Gold)

John Jackowski and Megan Knowlton Balne (left), John Comegno and Cara Hvisdas (right) star in Haddonfield Plays and Players’ GOD OF CARNAGE. (Photo credit: Dave Gold)

Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE is known as a comedy, though a very dark one, and it must be admitted that most members of the audience at Haddonfield Plays and Players laughed heartily and frequently. But with the laughter there is an uncomfortable feeling that there may be too much truth in it. This 70-minute play, with no intermission, concerns two couples, Michael and Veronica Novak and Alan and Annette Raleigh. Each couple has an 11-year-old son. The boys got into a playground fight and the Raleighs’ son hit the Novaks’ son with a heavy stick and knocked out two of his teeth. The parents are meeting at the Novaks’ home to discuss the matter. They start out politely enough, but end up squabbling like children themselves.

The actors are truly amazing. John Jackowski, often seen on the Ritz stage, is Michael, a macho type who horrifies the others when he admits to turning his child’s pet hamster out into the street because it made too much noise. His self-loathing becomes evident as his pacing and foul language increase. As his wife, Veronica, Megan Knowlton West goes from being the perfect hostess to near-hysteria. John Comegno is Alan, a sleazy lawyer who defends crooked pharmaceutical companies, believes in the “god of carnage” (bloodshed and mayhem), and is wedded to his cell phone more than to his wife, Annette. As played by Cara Hvisdas, Annette obviously feels this, and her pain is visible. In her nervousness, she becomes sick and throws up on the coffee table. This, of course, leads to embarrassed apologies and a massive clean-up effort. Eventually Michael breaks out the rum, and no holds are barred. He “drowns” Alan’s cell phone in a vase and Annette throws Veronica’s prized tulips across the room. The fight between the two boys is forgotten in the fight among their parents. But there is a moment toward the end, as the lights dim, that suggests they are beginning to realize what they have done.

Rebekah Macchione, the director who also designed the attractive upper-middle-class set, has done a remarkable job with a difficult show, and all the production crew deserve praise also.

In closing, one wonders if the play is a reflection of the violence in today’s society and if our laughter at it is desensitizing us to it. Probably not — people have been laughing at staged quarrels and violence for centuries. But it’s something to think about.

by Yasmina Reza
Translated from the French by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Rebekah Macchione
January 10-26, 2013
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 E. Atlantic Avenue
Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 429-8139

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Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin is a retired production editor for medical, nursing and allied health books. Her last employer was F. A. Davis in Philadelphia. She has been active in community theatre for more that 40 years, mostly with the Village Playbox of Haddon Heights, New Jersey. She has also appeared at the Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township, Merchantville Playcrafters and Haddonfield Plays and Players. Favorite roles include Lucy in Dracula (a long time ago!), Delia in Bedroom Farce, Clairee in Steel Magnolias and Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace. She trained at The Dramatic Workshop (an offshoot of Actors’ Studio), The Philadelphia Theatre Company and Walnut Street Theatre School. She has also written plays, some of which were presented by Penn Players at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Ritz Theatre. With her late husband, Jim Martin, she reviewed plays for The Speedliner, a newspaper distributed to riders of the PATCO High Speed Line.

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