By Jordan Wright (Photo/Keith Waters)
Sharon Field and Rance Willis produce this tidy rendition of French playwright and social satirist Yasmina Reza’s 2009 Tony award-winning play “God of Carnage.” It’s a kind of “Thinking Man’s Guide on How to Raise Bullies.”
Reza introduces us to two New York couples whose sons have gotten into a bloody scrap in a neighborhood park. At a meeting in the apartment of the victim’s parents to discuss the incident, the couples seem to agree on how the incident unfolded and Annette (Allison Block) and Alan (Jack B. Stein) appear to take the blame for their son’s aggressive actions. All is sweetness and light as they exchange pleasantries over coffee and Veronica’s homemade clafouti.
The well-mannered grownups appear to take responsibility for their children’s actions, resolving to discipline the boys and urge them to make up. Veronica (Karen Shotts), a writer on the atrocities in Darfur, has high-minded principles and tries to present a united front with her husband Michael (Chuck Dluhy) to lay the blame on Annette and Alan’s son. But Michael lets slip, “It could have been the other way around. Our son is a savage.”
Annette is a buttoned-up career woman while Alan is an evidence suppressing spin doctor of a lawyer, more wedded to his business than his wife. His incessant cell phone calls punctuate the couples’ mounting diatribes and show his pugnacious nature.
Initially, the prim Annette tries to stay above the fray, pleading with her husband not to escalate the situation. But with her one small remark, “How many parents standing up for their kids become infantile?” the play’s direction is revealed.
Soon all decorum is tossed aside as the confab turns into a verbal slugfest with the couples pushing each other’s emotional buttons and quickly devolving from respectable middle class professionals into screaming bullies. Michael’s credibility as the nice guy is compromised after he confesses to tossing his daughter’s hamster out into the street, and the women bond in their anger against him.
Soothing his bruised ego, he shares a bottle of his “well-aged Antiguan rum” and with that the civilities dissolve, allegiances shift and the couples re-bond.
“You keep vacillating. Playing both ends against the middle,” Veronica accuses her husband. Director Christopher Dylton keeps the constant carousel of alliances fascinating — like watching an elegantly choreographed train wreck in scenic designer Grant Kevin Lane’s stylishly modern set.
Reza wields humor with a surgeon’s scalpel. Her observations of couples’ conflicts, and their ability to emotionally destroy each another, are just as incisive. Yet our ability to laugh at their infantile antics is a universal response to the belief that we are all born into a culture of violence. “The God of Carnage has ruled since the beginning of time,” Alan reminds them.
Enjoy this fine cast that rewards the audience with a well-drawn plot of controlled mayhem and insightfully drawn hilarity.
Through March 21 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. For tickets and information call the box office at 703-683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.