Annette and Alan Raleigh (Don Alder and Sarah Lucht) and Michal and Veronica Novak (David Sikking and Marilyn Stacey) all want to stand up for civilization. After their 11-year-old boys engage in playground fisticuffs and the younger Raleigh bashes the younger Novak in the chops with a stick, somebody has to. But in Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage–a comedy of manners without the manners–now playing at Lake Oswego’s Lakewood Theatre, civilization and civility are very much at stake.
The play is set in a suburb that, much like our own fair hamlet, Lake Oswego, considers itself to be a pinnacle of civilization. This is intentional, by the way. But as happens in most places that consider themselves to be a pinnacle of something, we learn we all are pretty much the same–particularly when it comes to parents and their children. We all want to believe the best of our own little hellions, and when that belief is challenged, civilization quickly degenerates.
In the case of the Novaks and the Raleighs, the result is an all-out onstage brawl, bawdy, crude, often hilarious, and vaguely reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The love train this is not, and it’s probably advisable to leave the pre-teens at home.
French actor/playwright Yasmina Reza pulls out all the stops. The English translation by Christopher Hampton is excellent, and director Antonio Sonera brings out the absolute best in these four fine actors. Performed without intermission, it is a breathtaking 80 minutes of the death of civilization as we know it, especially after Michael starts pouring the rum. With so much at stake, thank goodness nobody had a gun! And, thank goodness it all is happening to someone else, so we can laugh politely and go home.
God of Carnage succeeds as a biting social satire, and examines a number of social institutions in a very short time span. After winning numerous awards abroad, it garnered a Tony Award for Best Play in 2009. It runs through April 9 at Lakewood Theatre.