Words || Erin Christie
With my new appreciation for DRAMAC, and cheap, quality entertainment in mind, I was thrilled to be asked to review their first open spot performance for the year, Yazmina Reza’s The God of Carnage. Originally a French black comedy, it has moments that even slide towards French farce – featuring situations exaggerated and improbable – which made they play very entertaining to watch.
The God of Carnage is much shorter than the production that preceded it, Dracula. It’s a one-act play with a cast of four characters. I thought this might make it somewhat lighter, or easier to digest, but that hunch proved incorrect from the opening moments of the play. The tension in The God of Carnage is palpable from the beginning. It induced all kinds of stressful thoughts, mainly surrounding ‘ha ha, that’s what I’ll be like as a mother’ to ‘ha ha, I really hope I’m not like that as a mother’.
The play focuses on two married couples, the Reilles and the Vallons, who have come together for a parent-to-parent meeting following an incident between their 11-year-old sons. Bruno Reille has been smacked by Ferdinand Vallon with a stick in the playground, resulting in the loss of two teeth. Although the parents strive for order and attempt to plan a reconciliation between their sons, the evening descends into utter chaos as each couple attempts to protect their own child, and eventually their own individual interests and beliefs.
Each character is as chaotic as the next. Alan Reille, played by Max Seppelt, is a lawyer with questionable morals, more attached to his mobile phone than his family. His wife, Annette, played by Taylor Musa, is a nervous wreck. Veronica Vallon, played by Brinley Davis, seems to strive for perfection, as a mother and a writer, and her husband Michael, played by James Miller-Argue, seems like a pretty generic guy until his disdain for life begins to seep through his polite demeanour. The four fight relentlessly with sly, cutting comments that escalate into all-out wars based on their moral standings.
The four actors make a stellar cast. I’d imagine it would be difficult to build so much tension and rage among just four actors, but I barely noticed until I myself was feeling tense. The standout for me was James Miller-Argue as Michael. To begin with, he seemed like a harmless guy, somehow reminding me of both my own dad and Phil Dumphy from Modern Family. He sells homewares. He’s afraid of hamsters. He likes fruitcake. However, as The God of Carnage plays out, he gives up any sense of pretence and becomes some kind of nihilistic beast. He’s the kind of character that would give me qualms about ever getting married. However, the entire cast exhibited extreme talent, and I have to give props to the amazing Taylor Musa, who vomited on stage so realistically that I had to put my drink down and convince myself not to sympathy spew.
The set and sound effects were also great. The red-painted room the meeting takes place in was a constant reminder of the carnage, and the incessant ringing of Alan’s phone had me feeling anxious. All this setup makes the descending madness realistic. If I’d been in the same situation, I think I would have been throwing things by the end as well.
I walked out a little unsure as to what I’d just witnessed, but I definitely enjoyed it. The extremity may not be for everyone, but I really think everyone should give it a go. The God of Carnage runs every night until Saturday, May 5th at the Lighthouse Theatre, with ticket prices ranging from $12-$23.
If you’ve recently witnessed anything as bizarre as this play, write about it for our upcoming issue #4 BAZAAR. Submissions due May 7th.