Powerhouse Performances Punch Up Petty Play

“These people are monsters!” shouts Annette.  Thus sums up the play God of Carnage which kicked off the Blue Barn Theatre’s 25th season whose theme is “Over the Edge”.

God of Carnage is a dark comedy about 2 couples (Michael & Veronica and Alan & Annette) who meet in the apartment home of Michael and Veronica (an absolutely gorgeous retroesque set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto) to discuss an altercation that occurred between their sons.  An altercation that resulted in the son of Michael & Veronica getting some teeth knocked out by the son of Alan & Annette.

Although the conversation starts civilly enough, the behavior of the characters slowly devolves until they act like little more than children themselves.  Dark comedies are often tricky to pull off as the comedy usually follows a wanton act of cruelty and callousness and this play is no exception.  One such example occurs when the high strung Annette projectile vomits (quite viscerally) due to the tension of the situation and her anger with her disinterested, arrogant husband, Alan, who seems more concerned with the people on the other end of his cell phone than with his own family.

The script is somewhat weak, being one note in nature, having no real arc, and an ending that is flat as a pancake.  That said, the weakness is somewhat alleviated by the interesting psychological questions it poses.  Is civility a mask we as a society wear?  How are we any different than animals?  Are we nothing more than overgrown children?

The play is also bolstered by the nice pace director Susan Clement-Toberer cuts and the excellent performances she has coached from her actors.

As Annette, Jill Anderson undergoes the greatest devolution in the play.  She begins as a overwound socialite whose posture is so ramrod straight, one would think the rod up her back has a rod up its back and slowly transforms into a drunken, overwrought child who is unhappy with her loveless marriage to a domineering husband who only lets her do “woman” things.  Her drunken rants and despising of tulips are some of the highlights of this show.

Ablan Roblin plays Annette’s husband, Alan.  Of all the characters, Alan is the only character who really does not change over the show.  His selfishness and arrogance is apparent from the start as he constantly excuses himself to speak to colleagues about a cover-up regarding the dangerous side effects of a blood pressure drug his company produces solely to reap the most profit out of it.  I don’t envy Roblin’s difficulty in playing such a non-evolving character, but he presented the coldness of Alan quite well.

Jerry Longe gives an restrained performance as  Michael.  Starting off as a laidback man trying to keep the peace between both parties, he makes a startling transformation declaring, “I’m a Neanderthal!” with a complete change in voice and body language.  On the turn of a dime, Michael removes the façade of Mr. Easygoing and reveals himself to be a hard drinking, cigar smoking, racist thug who rather enjoys digging into people with his barbed tongue.

Theresa Sindelar plays Veronica, a writer with an obsession for Africa.  Ms. Sindelar does a wonderful job foreshadowing the revelation of Veronica’s true colors.  Veronica is clearly an intellectual who delights in using fifty dollar words in her vocabulary to prove her intelligence.  At first, she seems to be trying to engineer an amiable middle ground between the two couples, but is really more interested in ripping her son’s attacker a new one, more concerned with her books than the health of her guest, and sitting on her high horse declaring, “I am better than everyone in this room!”

In the end, I believe the humor comes from the audience’s recognition of our own childish sides in these 4 pathetic people and how ridiculous we can become we when blow minor things grossly out of proportion.

God of Carnage runs through October 18 at the Blue Barn Theatre located at 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.  Showtimes are 7:30pm, Thursday-Sat and 6pm on Sundays.  (Note:  There is no show on Sept 29.)  Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $20 for students, TAG members, seniors (65+), and groups of ten or more.  For reservations or information, call 402-345-1576.

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