Characters Careen From Civility to CARNAGE at Old Academy Players

by Ginger Agnew

A schoolyard fight, boys at play, parents balancing the misbehavior with civilized discussion. Or are they? Old Academy Players, for the 486th full-length production of its illustrious history, takes no prisoners when tackling grownups behaving badly in GOD OF CARNAGE by Yasmina Reza.

As stories go, it is not unusual to find parents discussing their children with other parents. In GOD OF CARNAGE what makes the humor, and drama, is the fact that parents drag in all other aspects of life, child rearing, work, marriage, and more, to create unrest which leads to unraveling. Four grownups gather to have a well-meaning discussion about a bit of violence between their sons on the playground. As the talks progress, grownups exhibit singularly childlike behaviors, which deteriorate into disgraceful damaging drunken displays.

Four actors nimbly handle the manners and ill-manners of the characters. As the hosts, Veronica (Michele Scutti) and Michael (Jim Golden) attempt to make the best of things, though clearly with motives. Their guests Annette (Heather Ferrel) and Alan (Leigh Jacobs) are cautiously optimistic regarding the outcome of the visit. All four actors are well cast and quite able to carry the massive amount of dialogue and physicality with energy, spirit and agility. Scutti finds a good balance between the sympathetic earth mother, and tigress inside. She is able to take the character on an important journey of self-discovery on behalf of the children and her own survival. Golden makes a well-meaning foil, behaving as benevolent host to unearth the best of his guests and hopefully his future friends. Handling some tricky physical moments Ferrel makes her character come alive with a host of conflicting emotions and afflictions, including complete unabashed drunkenness. Jacobs finds humanity in the workaholic, cell phone addicted lawyer. The four are well matched, creating characters with depth and intricacy.

While on one hand a play of manners, these characters lay themselves bare and incivility prevails in GOD OF CARNAGE. Though this production is one for the books, when making theater plans, it is wise to include productions at Old Academy Players among top contention.

By Yasmina Reza
Directed by Charlotte Higgins
November 8 – 24, 2013
Old Academy Players
3540-44 Indian Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129


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