See the Clash of the Clans at Incline’s God of Carnage
Posted On June 26, 2017
Review by Doug Iden of God of Carnage: Incline Theatre
What might happen when two sets of parents meet to discuss an altercation between their respective young sons at school? Will the ensuing discussion be amicable or hostile? Do potentially inflammatory words (like “executioner”, “on purpose”, “gang member”) exacerbate the volatile situation? Those are the questions asked in the 2009 Tony winning drama God of Carnage now showing at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.
In the one act four person drama, parents Annette (Carol Brammer) and Alan (Rory Sheridan) visit Veronica (Martha Slater) and Michael (Brent Burington) to develop an ongoing strategy after Annette’s son strikes Veronica’s son. Initially, the discussion is polite and they seem to be making progress but, soon, the undercurrent of anger and child protectiveness leads to an explosive confrontation. As the tensions escalate, the parents become more childish than the children they are trying to protect. We also gradually learn that the relationships between the parents are tenuous as well. Class becomes an issue as well when the wealthy, self-indulgent and work-obsessed couple of Annette and Rory (a lawyer and a wealth manager) square off against the middle class pair of Veronica and Michael. The play increasingly becomes intense and vituperative as each of the characters hurls insults at each other. There is, however, enough humor to ameliorate the heavy drama. It is clear why the play won a Tony because playwright Yasmina Reza mixes the bombastic with the subtle, allowing us to see the characters’ real personalities and flaws emerge throughout the evening.
The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent as each of the characters move from being nervously cautious to barely civil to a raw emotional breakdown. Martha Slater as Veronica forms the center of the conflict as she stridently reminds everyone that her son was seriously injured and maligned and uses pointed and increasingly vulgar language to make her repeated point. Annette (Carol Brammer) alternates between being conciliatory and adversarial and shows evidence of acting the phony she is accused of being. She tries to balance her version of civility with indignation at the assumption that her son was solely to blame for the incident. Michael (Brent Burington) reverts to the self-proclaimed Neanderthal by becoming boisterous while Alan (Rory Sheridan) irritates everyone because he is constantly taking business calls on his cell phone. The basis of the calls creates a major plot point later. Alan is more concerned about his profession than being a parent and consistently denigrates his hosts in a condescending manner. His anger at the treatment of his son depends more on lawyerly concerns than on parenting. It is a testament to the actors and Director Kristin Clippard that they successfully navigate this emotional roller coaster.
The set, designed by Brett Bowling, is Michael and Veronica’s living room with an odd mixture of bric-a-brac including African masks, a typewriter, a rusty saloon sign and nondescript furniture. It hints of a homey middle class but pretentious living space.
This is not an easy play to watch but the relationship themes, class clashes, humor and extremely sharp and pointed dialogue make the show a worthwhile experience. I encourage you to see God of Carnage playing at the Incline Theater through December 4. You will think about this play for awhile. Tickets are available on the website, http://www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/incline/Default.aspx