Saturday, March 16, 2013

Everyman Offers Laughter and 'Carnage'



Photo: Stan Barough

Deborah Hazlett as Veronica, Christopher Bloch as Michael, Megan Anderson as Annette and Tim Getman as Alan
The story of God of Carnage starts before the play begins with a pair of 11 year-old schoolboys involved in a playground altercation with one of them using a stick to knock out two teeth of the other.  By play’s end, the audience wonders who really behaved like children—the kids in that fight or their parents.
The Pulitzer prize-winning French play written by Yasmina Reza and translated into English by Christopher Hampton debuted on Broadway in 2009 after a run in London and copped three Tony awards including Best Play.  It was since made into a film Carnage directed by Roman Polanski. 

God of Carnage is the second production to grace the Everyman Theatre’s sparkling new Fayette Street location, and it’s a hoot.  It centers on the uproarious, if not insane, interactions of two Brooklyn, NY yuppie couples who are the parents of the combatants.

Alan Raleigh (Tim Getman) and Annette Raleigh (Megan Anderson) are the parents of the attacking boy.  They were invited to the home of Michael Novak (Christopher Bloch) and Veronica Novak (Deborah Hazlett) to discuss the fight and resulting damage to the Novak kid in a futile attempt to resolve the dispute in a civil manner through a simple apology.
Starting off well with gentle pleasantries, sharing French pastries and having agreed (after some lawyerly-style debate) that the aggressor was not “armed” with a stick but instead was “furnished” with one, the tranquility was compromised by alcohol-fueled honesty and continual annoying interruptions from cell phone calls.  The meeting devolved into a verbal slugfest. 

Playwright Reza once said in an interview:  “What motivates me most about writing about people who are well brought up and yet, underneath that veneer, they break down.”  That’s what occurs in God of Carnage.
The characters exhibited what most parents’ instincts direct them to do: defend their own children regardless of the circumstances.  As soon as Veronica states that her son was “disfigured” from the fight and points out repeatedly the teeth lost were incisors, Annette recoils and argues there must have been a reason for her son to strike the other boy.

The play then becomes a runaway brakeless truck rolling faster and faster down a hill. Civility turns into calamity as each character reveals their weaknesses and vulnerabilities we all have but won’t ever admit to.  
Shocking scenes such as Annette throwing up all over the coffee table and books, her ripping off the tops of expensive tulips and the inevitable fate of that obnoxious cell phone interspersed with the ever-increasing profane but hilarious dialogue, elicited strong audience reactions. 

Eleanor Holdridge, possessing a solid resume of directing stage plays, made strong use of the actors’ skills in displaying precise comedic timing, facial expressions and movement around the stage.  
Bruce R. Nelson, an Everyman staple, was originally tapped to play Alan.  An unfortunate injury prior to the play’s run sidelined Nelson, and he was replaced by veteran actor Tim Getman.  That substitution worked out quite well. 

Mr. Getman flawlessly portrayed Alan, the corporate lawyer who is frequently on the phone defending a questionable drug company.  He really never bought into the need for this meeting with the Novaks and would have preferred to be anywhere but here.  But here Alan was, delivering many laugh lines. 

His wife, Annette Raleigh (Alan nicknamed her “Woof-Woof”), played by Megan Anderson, was also funny (and later disgusting).  Starting off mild, she evolves into rage as the play progresses and even yields to some homophobia.  My only gripe with Ms. Anderson’s performance is that she didn’t sufficiently project her voice especially at the beginning.  Otherwise, she was outstanding.
Michael Novak, played by Christopher Bloch, is a successful wholesaler with an ill mother.  Also armed with a plethora of gag lines and comedic gestures, Mr. Bloch came through wonderfully. 

Michael was assailed by the Raleighs and Veronica for allowing his daughter’s pet hamster to “escape” only for it to face the realities of street survival.  He was also chided by Veronica for being wishy-washy during the arguments involving his son.  

Dutifully, Michael frantically uses a hair drier to clean up the mess Annette left on Veronica’s table and precious art books.   Michael comes off as a peace-loving, liberal, open-minded soul but his inner self screams “F***ing Neanderthal.” Mr. Bloch could not have been better for this role.
Then there is Veronica, the intense and, at times, whacko mother of the victim and author of an upcoming book on Darfur.  Deborah Hazlett, another Everyman resident actor, plays the role brilliantly and realistically while displaying a full range of emotions and passion throughout. 

Timothy R. Mackabee’s set is functional if odd.  Behind the ordinary living room furniture in what is probably a brownstone apartment is a super-sized, dominating painting of a pack of dogs pouncing on a prey, which undoubtedly is a metaphor for carnage.

God of Carnage is a funny play and should not be missed. While the comedy is sometimes dark, most of us can imagine how we’d react to every one of the provocations in the play and can readily identify on some levels to these people. hocoblogs@@@
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Running Time: Eighty-five minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: This show contains profanity and is not recommended for children.
God of Carnage plays through April 7 at the Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette St., Baltimore.  For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit everymantheatre.org.

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