‘God of Carnage’ keeps the audience glued to their seats

The “God of Carnage” has arrived in Costa Rica and settled for the moment at the Laurence Olivier Theater in San José.  Settled is the wrong word.  If there is such a thing as psychic gravity, it seems to have lost its pull because emotions were flying all over the stage and among the audience.

Simply put, “God of Carnage” is a play about two couples, parents of two boys, who are meeting in order to come to some sort of closure after Henry, the son of one of the couples has suffered a couple of broken teeth when he was hit by the other couples’ son, Benjamin.  (I tell you the names of the boys because I kept forgetting who was who).

“God of Carnage” was written by French playwright and actress, Yasmina Reza.  The play has had a long run internationally and among other awards, won a Tony for its run on Broadway in 2009,

If there were awards given in Costa Rica for plays in English, this production would win one.

First the set: I always marvel at the magic that Jim Theologos and the crew can do with the limited space and odd shape of the stage at the Laurence Olivier.  This production is no exception.  (I am told the director had a lot to do with it.)

The action takes place in the attractive living room of Michael and Veronica’s New York apartment.  The walls are covered with pictures of Africa, and there are some lovely tulips in a vase on the sideboard.  They are the parents of Henry, the boy who has the broken teeth.

Although there are only four actors in the play, the stage is full of so many aspects of their personalities, each change triggered by a word or action, the fun doesn’t need another person.  However, I must mention that a fifth ‘actor’ is present in the form of a cell phone that Alan “I have to take this call,” has in his pocket.  Soon the audience feels the same disgust the three other players feel as he takes phone calls that persist throughout the play.

Michael and Veronica are the hosts. Veronica, played by Lisa DeFuso, loves everything African, is writing a book on Darfur and fervently believes people can be better.  Ms. DeFuso plays Veronica with all of the passionate devotion to a cause one could ask . . . at first.  Her husband, Michael, played by Tom Humes, sells all sorts of hardware and kitchen appliances and pots and pans wholesale and really couldn’t give a damn about

problems outside his ken.  Humes makes his character a human being, even likeable ….at times. Their son, Henry, is the one who has suffered some broken teeth.

The other couple, the parents of Benjamin, are played by Susan Hall Liang as Annette, who says she is a “wealth manager” which really translates into taking care of the money her lawyer husband makes, and running their household.  Ms. Liang is properly concerned and contrite in the beginning, at what her son has wrought.  Deceptively, she seems a gentle soul . . . but don’t push her too far.

And finally we have Alan, the lawyer with the cell phone, who has a pretty jaundiced view of the world in general and of this meeting in particular.  James Kissane, whose profession is acting, came to Costa Rica, just to play the part of Alan and to enjoy some time with his friends Tom and Lisa.

Not very long into the play I was convinced he is actually a lawyer, the kind who “takes no prisoners,” as someone told me about a lawyer once.  Like a good lawyer, he gets to the heart of things . . . even though he seems heartless a good part of the time.

The play begins like a friendly foursome badminton game, but soon it gets out of hand, with partners and opponents changing, the feathers flying, and the net trampled.  The atmosphere changes with an unfortunate word uttered by one member of this hapless group, and they are off.  By the end of the play we know these people as well as we know our families.  Every one of them is fascinating and makes us wonder about ourselves. It does not take more than a couple of minutes for the audience to realize that as one person said, “this play is a hoot.”

My kudos to the director, Noel Montagano, because as good as the actors are, one must know the director has something to do with it.

“The God of Carnage” is just 90 minutes long and is usually played without a break, but the Little Theatre Group decided perhaps the audience needed a breather.  In fact, few of us left. We were all glued to our seats (getting our second wind, perhaps), wondering what the maelstrom would bring next.

The moral seems to be sometimes grownups should not interfere with the affairs of children.

The play will be running this coming weekend, Friday, May 3rd curtain is at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, May 4th and 5th matinees are at 2:30. I suggest you put it on your calendars. Reservations call 8858-1446 or on the WebHERE! 

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