Entertainment » Theatre

God of Carnage

by Kayla Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 19, 2012
Keith Randolph Smith as Michael Novak, Crystal Fox as Annette Raleigh, and Jasmine Guy as Veronica Novak in "God of Carnage"
Keith Randolph Smith as Michael Novak, Crystal Fox as Annette Raleigh, and Jasmine Guy as Veronica Novak in "God of Carnage"   (Source:Greg Mooney)

In this age of information, when digital messages can be delivered instantly, when communication barriers have seemingly dissolved and technology dictates the patterns of our lives, "God of Carnage" begs the question: How evolved are we, really?

"God of Carnage" follows one evening between two married couples: the Novaks (Michael and Veronica, parents of Henry) and the Raleighs (Alan and Annette, parents of Benjamin). The couples' 11-year-old sons' playground altercation, which entailed Benjamin striking Henry across the face with a stick, causing Henry to lose two teeth and retain permanent nerve damage, acts as the thrust behind the production.

Michael and Veronica invite Alan and Annette to their impeccably dignified home to discuss matters in a civilized fashion, hoping to avoid the childishness of lawsuits and infantile parents. What begins as a muted conversation between two sets of concerned parents quickly devolves into a chaotic blur of name-calling and bickering, complete with flared tempers, physical violence, and destruction of property.

"God of Carnage" acts as a mirror to the (specifically Western) perception of "dignified" society. Veronica (played by Jasmine Guy), the grand master of the at-first innocuous meeting, expresses her firm belief in the concepts of morality and civility throughout the play, emphasizing their responsibility as parents to the governing of their children's behavior.

Though Veronica's husband, Michael (Keith Randolph Smith), at first shakily supports his wife in these endeavors, as the evening progresses his support falls to the wayside, being replaced by expressions of his own bitterness and resentment towards his academic wife.

The only honest conclusion: as we age, our savagery may perhaps become better concealed, less blatant in its manifestations, but lies dormant nevertheless, awaiting its trigger.

Benjamin's parents behave no better: immediately defensive, Annette (Crystal Fox) and Alan (Geoffrey Darnell Williams) act as foils for Veronica and Michael's show of marital disillusion, revealing their own unhappiness in the process.

While the four characters initially interact in ways that point towards their attempts at calm collection, one of the play's most charged moments works to bring about the undoing of any semblance of composure: after they have discussed their sons' disagreement over a leftover meal of clafouti (an obvious nod toward dignified society), Annette becomes sick and vomits across Veronica's coffee table, ruining a rare book of art in the process.

Earlier in the play, Veronica and Annette had briefly discussed their shared love of Francis Bacon's work -- its "cruelty, majesty, and chaos," and after Annette's too-human release of her stomach's contents on Veronica and Michael's home furnishings, the characters digress into their own Bacon-esque world.

Running parallel to the parents' discussion of their children's "savage" behavior, Benjamin's father, Alan, exemplifies his own "adult" form of savagery via ongoing cell phone interruptions. Alan is a lawyer for a pharmaceutical company, and throughout the play he receives calls regarding some negative results of the new drug his company is peddling. When Alan finds that the drug causes a loss of motor function, his own cruelty is brought to the forefront.

"God of Carnage" draws a direct comparison between Henry and Benjamin's incident and the actions of their parents, and hints at the only honest conclusion: as we age, our savagery may perhaps become better concealed, less blatant in its manifestations, but lies dormant nevertheless, awaiting its trigger.

"God of Carnage" runs through February 4 at the Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street NE, in Atlanta. For info or tickets, call 404-733-4650, or visit www.alliancetheatre.org

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