GOD OF CARNAGE Provokes Laughter at Walnut Street Theatre

by Arnie Finkel

Julie Czarnecki and Susan Riley Stevens in a scene from Walnut Street Theatre's GOD OF CARNAGE. (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Robert Andrew Kovach has designed a comfortable, if starkly modern set for Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE.  The red flames of the artwork upstage are a clue to the audience that there are some fireworks to come.

The superb cast does not disappoint in any way.  Julie Czarnecki, an uptight and socially conscious Veronica, and Ben Lipitz, as Michael, a large and potentially violent man, are the parents of an 11 year old child who may or may not have incited a fight in which he was injured.  They are meeting with Susan Riley Stevens and Greg Wood (a married couple in real life) as the skittish and vulnerable Annette and Alan, the harried lawyer glued to his cell phone, who are the parents of the other boy in the fight.

What starts out as a reasonable discussion rapidly degenerates into more and more child like behavior.  The laughs follow in quick order.  It is a bitter kind of laughter, but I found it to be infectious.  The sensible parents devolve into more and more child-like behavior.

Every character on stage is enjoying the chaos.  What a pleasure to see actors really listening.  I could see the thoughts running through their brains.  Their professionalism showed when unexpected things happened and were incorporated into the fun– in character.  They get many laughs to reactions without any dialogue.

Susan Riley Stevens, Greg Wood, Ben Lipitz and Julie Czarnecki in GOD OF CARNAGE at Walnut Street Theatre. (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Director Bernard Havard (also President and Producing Artistic Director of the theatre) built the action from a quiet discussion to manic behavior in just the right tempo.  The 75 minutes (there is no intermission) fly by.

Everything about this production exudes pure professionalism.  I envy those about to witness GOD OF CARNAGE.

by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Bernard Havard
March 13-April 29, 2012
Walnut Street Theatre
825 Walnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19107

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