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God of Carnage

From the aisle
November 1st, 2013

Perseverance Theatre



by Yasmina Reza


Runs Nov. 1- 10, 2013


Reviewed by Robert Pond

Le Dieu du Carnage began as a play written by the French playwright, Yasmina Reza. God of Carnage was translated to English for the London production, which won the Olivier Award, and thereafter, Carnage was Americanized for Broadway. Of the play’s three Tonys awards, one was for being the best play in 2009. Pirronne Yousefzadeh has staged an impressive production to begin Perseverance Theatre’s third season in Anchorage.

Parents Alan and Annette Raleigh (Brandon Demery, Allison Holtkamp) meet at the posh home of Michael and Veronica Novak (James Sullivan, Annia Wyndham) to discuss the fight that the 11-year-old sons of each couple had and address the need to deal with the damage of broken teeth. This fight stems from one of the boys not letting the other in a particular ‘gang’.  If memory serves, kids usually settle this before parents get involved, but it is the catalyst that ignites the play God of Carnage into a spiral fall of adults.

Host Michael Novak is a self-made wholesaler and his wife, Veronica is writing a book about Dafur. The guests are the parents of the aggressor. Alan Raleigh is a lawyer for the pharmaceuticals and wife Annette is in wealth management. The play begins well enough, as if in a calm sea, and then descends from the neighbor niceties to a kind of hell.  The high priced attorney, Alan has, it would seem, a cell phone growing out of his ear. Being pressured to be at this meeting about a playground tussle has taken him away from protecting important bad drug people with his unique lawyer skills-a lucrative occupation. Annette is the dutiful, fashionable wife (she has nice heels) who would like to be noticed by husband Alan; she wants to be significant. She is veneer that dissolves with the slightest bit of alcohol. Michael Novak is domestically lazy but nonetheless manageable by wife Veronica and Mom. Michael is also being held responsible, by daughter and wife, for not finding a home for the daughter’s hamster. The foursome eventually war on each other with loaded subjects and clusters of nonsense arguments not limited to race and anti-women.  In constructing this veil of hostility, the parents fall way below the level of confrontation their sons reached.

There are four very gifted actors taking us on this comedy-drama trip. Brandon Demery every bit of the lawyer who has caught the train of success and is too insecure to risk falling off. His lifeline is his cell phone and dealing with the playground incident is too much a threat to his precarious hold on success. When the cell phone was tossed into the flower vase, there was a hush in the audience. We may have the same fear. Allison Holtkamp plays the wife who cannot hold her liquor or even her food; she is a great stage drunk.  We really believe her character’s polar changes from a dutiful wife to that of a destructive drunk. Her drunk scene is hilarious and even the upchucking doesn’t offend us. James Sullivan presents Michael as a clown on stage and yet Michael obeys, he is silly, and he even–at times- stands up for himself. Appearing simple as a sitcom, Michael is a complicated role.  The role of Veronica is well acted by Annia Wyndham; she reaches for the layers that make her character whole. On one hand, Veronica wants world peace with a universal moral code. But on the other hand when things turn south for Veronica, Ms Wyndham can be in an attack mode. Actors who listen intently on stage are impressive. With Annia Wyndham, you can almost hear her thinking.

The set design by Art Rotch and lighting by Mike Inwood presented an interesting artistic marriage for the production. At first, the giant backdrop seemed overly lit, showing the wrinkles on the drop and the fragmented setting looked clinically clean and not lived in. The backdrop appeared to overwhelm the actors. As the God of Carnage progressed (or regressed), the warm colored backdrop looking like an approaching sand storm slowly, every so slowly, changed to the grey stone-like prison wall and the set became dark like the characters. The set and lighting was a lovely harmonic to this very powerful theatre piece.

Less we forget, God of Carnage is a comedy, in a tragic way. Directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh, this play is among the better offerings brought to Anchorage by the Perseverance Theatre. It should not be missed. If you plan to see God of Carnage as an evening of dinner and a show, it might be well advised to see the show before dinner.


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