Walking into the West Windsor Art Center, one would think the evening would be filled with wine and cheese over talk of art. While alcoholic beverages, snacks, and artistic impressions did come up in conversations throughout the evening, it certainly wasn’t the intended focus of discussion. The cozy living room set for Shakespeare 70’s production of GOD OF CARNAGE was in the middle of an art gallery, fitting the intimate feeling of an art lover’s home and putting all contention on full display.
The one act play opens with two sets of parents in the middle of a civilized discussion regarding their savage children. Apparently, Alan (Damian Gaeta) and Annette’s (Jennifer Newby) son had brutally knocked out two teeth belonging to the son of Michael (Brian Jason Kelly) and Veronica (Janet Quartarone). The parents try to come up with a reasonable way to handle the situation, and as they do so, their mannerisms, dialogue, and points of view become anything but civil.
During the strained and awkward small talk of the first part of the show, you wonder why suits like Alan and Annette stick around in the avant-garde apartment of Michael and Veronica. Like the characters, the audience is sucked in and stuck there wondering what could possibly happen next. Maybe it was the “soothing powers of culture,” but it was difficult to turn away from the arrangements being made for one child’s apology in between references to family recipes, jobs, and Spartacus.
Each actor brought something unique to this play-date pity party. As the frank father of the alleged bully, Gaeta kept his cool for most of the play, but did show his fiery side from time to time. His character’s constant cell phone interruptions were just as annoying as they would have been off stage, but after a while it became more of the norm. Newby handled the working mom role with charm and wit. Her waves of biliousness showed her character’s many colors, but Newby’s acting skills certainly aren’t green. Kelly’s emotional transformations throughout the play also highlighted his range as he took his character through a passionate rant about hamsters to a calmer discussion about rum and cigars. Quartarone was equally passionate about pretty much everything that came out of her mouth. From the well-being of her character’s son and the punishment of his abuser to her views on all things cultural, she held back very little.
Overall, it was entertaining to watch these parents tap back into their childhood and witness the irony of the situation, that those who seek civility find sometimes it’s more natural to be unrefined.
GOD OF CARNAGE
by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Patrick Albanesius
September 14-22, 2012
West Windsor Art Council
925 Alexander Road
Princeton Junction, NJ