We’re all gearing up for a little rumble this weekend– and if you’re in that kinda’ mood head on over to the Huntington Theatre Company for a little bloodletting. There you’ll find the Tony Award-Winning comedy “GOD OF CARNAGE” which sets up a nasty little encounter between two couples who meet for the first time in the aftermath of a schoolyard spat between their respective cherubs. Their intention is to have a “civilized” conversation in the living room over apple/pear clafouti and finish what their little heathens started. They almost end up finishing off each other and their marriages. My complaint is that it could have been even bloodier.
I’ve seen GOD OF CARNAGE by Yasmina Reza twice before– once on Broadway last season, where it was raucous, and vile, and carefully calibrated for increasingly tempestuous meltdowns. I then saw it onscreen as CARNAGE (it’s more explosive and believable onstage– the proscenium better contains and conveys the mounting pressure of stressed egos in a confined space) directed by Roman Polanski. But the film was well-played with more emphasis on the extreme personalities at odds with each other: Jodie Foster as the most insufferably insufferable purveyor of political correctness, John C. Reilly as her lumpy, housewares-selling hubby, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the power couple– Waltz at his sneering, arrogant lawyerly best.
Then I arrived at the Huntington version directed by Daniel Goldstein– and I had high hopes when I spotted the coffee table– like the trunk of a giant tree– erupting center stage in the middle of a sleek, sophisticated two-story town house. I’m thinking–YEAH– things are going to get primitive. And then they don’t. The dynamics never devolve below that of the infantile, when this play needs to go primordial. It’s all there in Reza’s script– civilization is at stake. I never felt that. Part of it is the casting. Brooks Ashmanskas is more funny than dangerous. Stephen Bogardus is a tad priggish– I never entirely bought his selling housewares.
It’s played for farce and not for the darker implications of what can happen to a little pet hamster gone astray– which serves as back story here. These critters aren’t domesticated exactly, not quite wild, but caught somewhere in between, where a walk on the wild side is just a hop, skip, and a schoolyard spat away. See it at the Huntington through February 6. But remember– the real carnage starts Sunday night in Indianapolis.