Well-Acted GOD OF CARNAGE at Playcrafters of Skippack

by Kelly Thunstrom

Mixed reviews greeted GOD OF CARNAGE when it opened on Broadway in 2009. All four actors, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, and the late James Gandolfini, were nominated for Tony Awards, with Harden actually winning. However, on paper, GOD OF CARNAGE doesn’t amount to much. This is a one-set, one-act play, around 80 minutes long, with two sets of parents meeting to discuss their children’s behavior. Period. And then…all h-e-double hockey sticks breaks loose.

Let me set the scene for you…the place is the Novak family’s living room. Veronica (Breffny Rouse) and Michael (John Bell) Novak’s son has had two teeth knocked out by the son of Alan (Jeffrey Barg) and Annette (Christine Martuscello) Raleigh. The Novaks have invited the Raleighs to their home for a discussion about their sons’ behavior. Everything is going swimmingly at the beginning, if not a little awkward with lots of long pauses. The audience knows that the peace, love, and harmony are not going to last, and tensions build ever so slowly. Between Veronica and Michael’s simmering rage (hers for her son’s injury, his for his wife), Alan’s ever-present need for his technological device, Annette’s um…sensitive stomach, and a bottle of good rum, this meeting is a powder keg waiting to explode.

With just four performers, it’s crucial that they all work in sync with each other at all times. Playcrafters is lucky to have talented veterans in its cast who are able to do that effortlessly. Rouse takes the role of Veronica and squeezes every inch of life into it on stage until there’s nothing left to give. She is magnificent. Martuscello is always a delight to watch at Playcrafters and takes on the physically demanding role of Annette very well. Barg and Bell deliver solid performances as Alan and Michael, and it’s a testament to their abilities that they can give nuance to two unsympathetic characters. Line delivery can get a little less than natural at times, so I would have liked to see the performers pull back some.  Due to the fact that these are just four parents talking about their children, it’s critical that they sound like it’s just an ordinary day until they obviously can’t do that anymore.

Lori Maxwell says in her director’s notes, “The play, as you will see, resonates with all of us in one way or another.” It’s definitely a piece that will get you talking, realizing that sometimes parents can act way more like a child than their own child can.

by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Lori Maxwell
September 12-28, 2013
Playcrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Road
Skippack, PA

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