Friday night, I attended The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s opening of Yasmina Reza’s God Of Carnage. And sadly, in his opening remarks, Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements reminded us that this is the last play in the Rep’s 2022/2023 season. A season that has seemed to end far too hastily.
I think I remembered this right, but mid-play or so, Veronica says: “I don’t have a sense of humor. And I have no intention of acquiring one”! And that is about how I felt as I was walking down the stairs from the Quadracci Theater.
This is a dark, dark, dark, dark comedy. There are four characters here. Two sets of parents who meet to discuss a playground altercation between their sons. What starts as a conversation in an obvious upper middle class home…as strangers begin to get to know each other…and begin to discuss the situation, we get to meet Veronica (Heidi Armbruster) and Michael (Adam Poss) as the parents of the ‘victim’, although that term may be up for review, and Annette (Makha Mthembu) and Alan (Elan Zafir) as the parents of the ‘attacker’, also open to reinterpretation or redefinition during the play.
But everything quickly leaves the tracks and we clearly witness the destruction and abandonment of civility and maybe even the demise of civilization…well certainly at least, social and cultural mores, marriage, personal space, and the shattering of the facade of personal identity. Director Ryan Quinn pushes and pushes the characters until the play lives up to its title, God Of Carnage, yet there are no gods here.
And then it ends. I wasn’t expecting the end when it occurred…but it ends. How could this be the end?
I am not sure what the cast does to unwind each evening after their performances but I can’t imagine the intensity of emotions that they are called upon to present can simply be shrugged off at curtain close. And there is no intermission in which to catch their breath…or ours for that matter.
This play feels particularly contemporary, and I guess that it is. And it feels particularly American of the moment…but it isn’t. God Of Carnage was originally written in French by Yasmina Reza. So we are seeing it in translation…the English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton.
God Of Carnage runs at the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater from now through May 14, 2023. Ticket information and additional details can be found here.
Extra Credit Readings:
The God of Carnage Program: I would recommend the note from Mark Clements.
And the Playguide: there are a number of key articles here that you might want to read before attending the show.