by Richard Pacheco
Yasmina Reza’s acclaimed dark comedy, “God of Carnage” catapults to life at Theatre One’s vigorous and very funny production at the Abbey Theatre in Middleboro. Sparked by a strong cast and excellent script the play merrily rambles along, growing darker and funnier as it goes. It won the Tony Award for best play in 2009.
Before the play begins, two 11-year-old children, Benjamin and Henry, get involved in argument because Benjamin refuses to let Henry join his 'gang'. Benjamin knocks out two of Henry 's teeth with a stick. That night, in the Novak apartment in Brooklyn, the parents of both children meet to discuss the matter. They are determined to be civilized about it all, very mature and intelligent. They want to be the epitome of restraint and self control. It is a noble goal which soon goes awry and gradually descends into a vehement nastiness and disarray, turning both sets of parents into petulant children, who spew ill temper and meanness despite their good intentions at the beginning of the meeting.
Benjamin’s father, Alan is a lawyer who is never off his mobile phone. Benjamin's mother, Annette is in "wealth management" (her husband's wealth, to be precise), and consistently wears good shoes. Henry's father, is a self-made wholesaler with an unwell mother. Michael's wife, Veronica is writing a book about Darfur.
As the evening goes on, the meeting degenerates into the four getting into irrational arguments, and their discussion falls into the loaded topics of misogyny, racial prejudice and homophobia. One of the central dramatic moments of the play occurs when Annette vomits onstage, all over the coffee table and books.
In 1987 Reza wrote “Conversations after a Burial”, which won the Molière Award, the French equivalent of the Laurence Olivier Award or the Tony Award, for Best Author. The North American debut premiered in February 2013 at Players By The Sea in Jacksonville Beach Florida. Holly Gutshall & Joe Schwarz directed; with Set Design by Anne Roberts. The cast for this US debut was Kevin Bodge, Paul Carelli, Karen Overstreet, Dave Gowan, Holly Gutshall and Olivia Gowan Snell. Reza translated Polanski's stage version of Kafka's Metamorphosis in the late 1980s. Her second play, “Winter Crossing”, won the 1990 Molière Award for Best Fringe Production, and her next play, “The Unexpected Man,” enjoyed successful productions in England, France, Scandinavia, Germany and New York. In 1995, “Art” premiered in Paris and went on to win the Molière Award for Best Author. Since then it has been produced worldwide and translated and performed in over 30 languages.
In the midst of their meeting rum eventually replaces coffee. And so beings the disintegration from the spouses as respective confederates, poised to defend to realizing each is on their own and basically alone. Yet in the midst of this carnage there are small acts of kindness and helpfulness to make it more humane.
Robert Duquette is Alan, a lawyer with a cell phone glued to his ear in the midst of a major crisis with his main client, a giant pharmaceutical company. He is only partial attentive to the crisis at hand brought about by the conflict of his son and the other boy. He can be distracted and aloof to all around him, his wife included and at times nasty and downright cruel. Duquette delivers a fine performance, full of nuance and skill. He has a keen sense of comic timing which he uses to advantage throughout the play.
Dawn Moquin is Annette, Alan’s wife. Whose major job in life is managing her husband’s wealth and their son, both of which seems in dire straits presently. She is more interested in excellent shoes than anything else, and struggles to maintain her composure in a difficult and strenuous situation. Moquin is delightful as she struggles to come to terms with what her son has done and the self-righteousness of her neighbors, particularly the wife, Veronica. Her growing lack of composure, her comic descent from the epitome of civility into illness and volatile rage is a wonder to watch, fun to behold. Her nausea prone moments end up being very funny.
Omer Courcy is Michael, the wholesaler, who seems down to earth and is not always fond of his wife’s posturing and attitude. His mother is ill and constantly calls with some new question which little by little enrages him in the mist of the crisis he faces in his home with the neighbors. Courcy is a delight as the man caught up in a situation he hates and would rather avoid altogether, but cannot thanks to his wife’s unrelenting determination. He has a fine comic timing and some of his expressions are priceless. When he defends his tossing out the hamster and takes a hair dryer to some wet arts books, he is hilarious. Watching him go through his transformations, is pure fun.
Linda Monchik is Veronica, a woman who is proud of her ability to remain rational, or at least her version of it and proud of her commitment to creating a better world and her book on Darfur. She is wired tight and on the verge of slipping over the edge into nastiness and ill temper. Monchik is right on the mark with her super proper, uptight crusader for a better world. When she loses it, Monchik is a delight, hilarious and a good time with her quirks and fine comic timing.
The chemistry between the cast is excellent, with nice touches along the way that make things more vivid and funny.
These wonderful cast members are deftly directed by Peg Holzemer, who keeps the dark humor ably on track and the laughs coming with perfect timing. She also designed the set, which is very effective.
It is a play loaded with at times painful laughs, full of energy, propelled by a sold cast and strong direction. If you like your humor dark, always funny, sometimes gritty, running over a wide range of topics, this is the play for you. This comic gallop is a mery ride indeed. It runs without intermission at about 90 minutes or so.
It continues at Alley Theatre 133 Center Street Middleboro. Jan 18, 19, 24, 25 at 7:30pm Sunday Jan 28 at 2pm. Tickets at the Door “Cash Only” Students & Seniors $15 Gen $18 Info 1-617-840-1490