The God of Carnage by Yasmin Reza (translated from the original French by Christopher Hampton)
The play begins unremarkably. Two couples in a living room--strangers come together to discuss the fracas in the park between their little boys that left one with a split lip and two missing teeth. The tone is tensely polite. Imagine George and Martha without the booze, the madness, and the tragic history. These two couples in the stylish living room in Ms. Reza's play are civilized despite the dynamic that pits a call for justice against justification. One might wonder how this foursome will fulfill our expectations for a scintillating evening of theater, but it's right about then that the alliances onstage begin to shift. The parents of the boy who wielded the stick begin to wield their own weapons at each other, and in a dizzying escalation, the upset wife vomits all over the art books on her hosts' coffee table. The collective shriek from the audience will not be the last of the evening.
As the politeness behind the proscenium is pulled away like a restrictive necktie, the audience is forced to let its hair down, too. We can look all we want for a solid protagonist, but there's only whiplash waiting for us. By the time the booze comes out, we have loved and reviled each of the four characters, and we're not finished yet.
Reza examines love, marriage, the gender gap, parenthood, and the very nature of the human animal, but given the escalating antics onstage, the experience is more visceral than cerebral. I was too busy laughing to get a headache from thinking too hard.
The God of Carnage is at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis until August 7th, 2011.
It won a Tony in 2009 for best play.
old hilltop villages, crumbling castles, chateaux with towers, pretty much any French food I've ever eaten, a Kir before dinner, red wine, meals that take forever, French kissing, French fries (known in France as les frites, French doors, window boxes full of geraniums, Truffaut, Colette, French lavender, topiary, those crazily over-designed French gardens, fabulous lingerie, Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Odillon Redon...