opened Yasmina Reza's play God of Carnage this week. It is a play of great humor and equally great discomfort, about — what else — the dysfunctional modern married couple. The play is so explosively acted and well staged that it is a must-see.
Meet Veronica and Michael and Annette and Alan, parents of two 11-year-old boys who have had a spat in the schoolyard that has injured one of the boys. The two couples meet to chat about the altercation with the idea that the two boys should have a talk.
What seems to be a civil occasion quickly goes south, as buzz words such as snitch and gang and coward spark the conversation, and the quartet begins to tear at each other after a bottle of rum is introduced.
The characters are recognizable: Alan, superbly acted by Warren David Keith, is the storied sleazy lawyer who on his incessantly ringing cellphone seeks to quash news of a toxic drug produced by a client.
Rachel Harker is his saccharine, ditzy wife Annette, who is in "wealth management."
Initially at least our sympathies lie with the "committed, problem-solving" Veronica (Stacy Ross). She is the apparent peacemaker at first, devoted to her salesman husband Michael (Remi Sandri), and writing about Darfur.
Things soon heat up, though, the cellphone goes into a vase of tulips, and expletives fly.
Reza gives Alan a sympathetic moment when he announces that human beings have always been governed by the god of carnage, why expect any differently. The fray continues to the last word, and there is much to squirm about as the four go into self-destruct mode (not to mention a graphic upchuck scene).
Reza writes with warmth and humor if not a lot of depth, and the characters could be all-American, but Carnage was originally written in French and performed throughout Europe before it became a Tony award-winner on Broadway in 2009.
Nina Ball's design of an upper-crust Brooklyn living room is highly workable and Ryan Rilette's staging is ingenious — the pacing tracks the high-flying text seamlessly. Last but not least, it would be difficult to imagine a better cast.
God of Carnage plays at Marin Theatre Company's Boyer Theatre in Mill Valley through June 24. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Tue., Thu. and Fri., 7:30 p.m. Wed. and 7 p.m. Sunday. Matinee at 1 p.m. June 7, at 2 p.m. June 16 and 23 and every Sun. at 2 p.m. Click here to buy tickets or for more info.
--Bay City News Service