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God of Carnage
a Comedy/Drama
by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

COMPANY : Open Minds Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Robert Mello Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5368

SHOWING : October 12, 2018 - October 14, 2018



What happens when two sets of parents meet to discuss a fight between their respective progeny? Will it be polite and civil? Or will it become a primal battle to gain control and seek revenge? This comedic play will have you giggling, sitting in shock, and wondering, "When did adults become so childish?"

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Scads of Spillage
by playgoer
Sunday, October 14, 2018
"God of Carnage" can be played pretty seriously, with the brittle politeness of two married couples meeting to discuss an incident between their children turning into open hostility. There’s inherent humor in the play, but often of the uncomfortable kind that has the audience laughing at antagonistically unacceptable behavior. In Open Minds’ production, a sunnier, broader type of comedy comes to the forefront.

Director Maddie Auchter has cast the play with two mixed-race couples. Race doesn’t really factor into the play, except when the white husband (Brandon Engelskirchen) uses a racial epithet when speaking to (but not of) his wife (Toya M. Nelson). The muted reaction onstage lets us know that this is race-blind casting rather than an attempt to insert racial politics into a plot that already is rife with gender politics and the politics of economic disparity.

The unacknowledged set design is simple: a sofa, flanked by end tables, and two armchairs surrounding a coffee table, with a coat rack far stage right and a pitifully small abstract painting on the upstage wall. Mr. Engelskirchen’s props give the feel of a lived-in house and provide everything needed to fulfill the requirements of the plot, including a gag-inducing vomit effect, which alone is worth the price of admission. Blocking makes good use of the set, although sightlines of action occurring on the floor can be obscured when additional chairs are brought in to accommodate an overflow audience. Lighting is basic, and costumes are functional, if not terribly indicative of the disparate economic status of the two couples.

Performances are of mixed quality, which prevents the cast from functioning as a true ensemble. E. Emmanuel Peeples is appropriately abrasive as a high-powered lawyer, but he seems a tad uncomfortable being onstage in such close proximity to the audience. Audrey Moore, on the other hand, is simply spectacular as his wife, anchoring her every line and reaction in reality, getting laughs from the truthfulness of her performance rather than from any comedic tricks. Mr. Engelskirchen is a natural comedian, and his performance mines his lines for comedy, getting laughs from his delivery and physicality. Ms. Nelson dives into her role, but gives the impression that she could have dived in much deeper. The four actors seem to be in four different places in terms of their talent, skill, and acting styles, so there’s little feeling of cohesiveness in the marriages.

Even so, Ms. Auchter has created a production that shows the play off to advantage and that wrings comedy from the uncomfortable interplay of four people discussing the behavior of their children, then branching off to attack one another’s behavior. It’s a generally talky play (the original version is French, after all), and Ms. Auchter’s choice to have characters rise and move to different positions to sit again doesn’t ring particularly true in terms of guest-host interactions, but adds some movement until the moments of true physical activity, which hit with brutal force.

Yasmina Reza’s "God of Carnage" is done fairly frequently on area stages. The Open Minds production may not be the most polished one in memory, but it certainly is one of the funniest. Overflow crowds are evidence that the Open Minds Theatre Company is headed for a bright future, and "God of Carnage" is an auspicious inaugural offering. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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