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The Goodman Theatre's "God of Carnage" exposes what happens when parents don't act their age

By Regina M. Torres
On April 20, 2011


The Goodman Theatre has been known to put on plays of a high caliber that tackle a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the human condition. God of Carnage is the current sold-out play being produced by the Goodman, which extended the show's performances based on popular interest.

God of Carnage was written by the award-winning playwright Yasmina Reza, who was born in Paris of Eastern European Jewish parents. According to Reza, God of Carnage stems from a true story that she wrote within a three-month period. The play seeks to comically and boldly point to how our own adult shortcomings may unfortunately be revealed when trying to resolve issues with other parents involved in the naughty dealings of their respective children.

The play is written and performed as a one-scene deal, lasting only seventy minutes without an intermission. What this means is that the audience sits through the beginning introductions and civil engagements of a pair of well-to-do New York couples who haphazardly meet in order to resolve a conflict between their sons on the school playground. But what starts as awkward yet well-intentioned discourse between the two couples, culminates to a sordid war of parenting and personality conflicts which result in mayhem.

One son, belonging to the older couple Veronica and Michael, has acquired a few injuries resulting from his playmate's (the other couple's son) hitting him with a stick. The assailant, belonging to the younger power couple duo Annette and Alan, is never present in the adult gathering, as neither is the defendant belonging to the opposing couple. What we do see, however, is the tongue-in-cheek jabs that accumulate as tension builds over trying to find resolutions (namely, the admittance of wrong) between both parties.

What cordial and tranquil (however awkward) transactions take place at first glance is quickly replaced by escalating defense mechanisms and self-righteousness. I won't spoil it for those readers interested in seeing this play, but I will divulge that this play does delight audiences with plot twists near the end, which involve flying objects and complete, physically acted out anarchy. Appetizers and drinks are also served in play as the conversation digresses.

Special mention should go to pointing out that this play is also a delightful character study, since each of the characters has well written and distinct personalities that match their individual neurosis. There is the younger power couple of Annette and Alan; he is a narcissistic corporate lawyer that uses his phone as a device to unplug from his place within society, while she is a quietly attuned professional getting inebriated as her husbands phone rings for the umpteenth time.

The older couple also plays an important comedic character study; Veronica is a type A, go-getter-know-it-all that overcompensates in her desire to fix the problem at hand, while Michael, the household goods manufacturer, provides comic relief through his off-handed comments directed at anyone that questions his beliefs or lifestyle.

Each individual within the framework of each couple ends up chaotically trying to get drunk as unresolved tensions build to a climax (I will just disclose that there is action worth waiting for as the drunken and disgruntled actions unfurl). Even if one is not married and never foresees having children or coupling up, this play will colorfully show the darker side of parental disagreements.

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