REVIEW: God of Carnage

The Belfry Theatre will erupt with laughter as they encourter Yasmin Reza's play directed by Glynis Leyshon.

God of Carnage runs at the Belfry Theatre until May 17.

“What I am – what I have always been – is a fucking Neanderthal.”  — Michael Novak

For the next few weeks, audiences at Belfry Theatre will erupt with laughter as they  encounter Yasmin Reza’s  God of Carnage. Director Glynis Leyshon’s production weaves the inspired lunacy of Fawlty Towers with the ferocity of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

As one arrives in the theatre space, the living room of a “Bobo” couple sits vacant. Author and journalist David Brooks first coined the term as a portmanteau of “bourgeois” and “bohemian.” The set of God of Carnage exemplifies Bobo chic. A minimalist white sectional sofa surrounds a coffee table with books of art. Designer John Ferguson provides a strong bohemian touch (not included in Reza’s script, which is lean on stage directions): a wooden African statue, presumably of some pagan deity, sits upstage centre. The walls, upstage left and right, resemble the black obsidian of a temple and reflect the action. Together, modern and ancient bristle against each other, providing the arena for the play’s combatants.

And fight they do. At the house of Michael and Veronica Novak (Bill Dow and Sarah Orenstein), Alan and Annette Raleigh (Vincent Gale and Celine Stubel) have come calling. It appears that young Raleigh has hit young Novak about the face with a stick. Initially, the couples seek to negotiate a civilized peace over the actions of their 11-year-old sons. Before long, the ringside bell is rung and verbal jabs fly. Fuelled by Bobo-grade rum, a ritual of release belches forth as our challengers drop their civilized facades and have at it.

Anger is a difficult emotion to play well on stage. Too often it hits the same note again and again. The cast of God of Carnage treat us to four very different shades of anger, rooted in believable emotion. Dow’s Michael Novak embodies a well-trained pit bull, domesticated but to a point. He grins, he barks, he makes nice only to bark again, enjoying the chaos. Gale’s Alan Raleigh, a high-profile lawyer, has a lean and hungry look. He skips meals, running on ambition. Head cowed, Gale allows his character to play the “Yeah, me, too!” beta-male to Dow’s alpha.

Our female leads, though, provide performances that approach the virtuosic. Both Orenstein (playing Veronica Novak) and Stubel (playing Annette Raleigh) begin the play as demure. Their speech halts and stutters, trying to find the right word, the correct thing to say. As “hell is unleashed,” words and emotions pour out, are stifled, gush, only to be suppressed again. Finally, Orenstein uncorks a less-than-civilized banshee as Stubel spews girlish tantrums like some shit-faced fairy.

Leyshon blocks the movement of her actors with the finesse of a choreographer. God of Carnage has moments of pure slapstick. Also, interesting choices are made regarding the rhythm of the play. Pinter-like pauses keep the comedy from speeding out of control, and heighten moments of tension. A hair dryer appears in a supporting role, as does a cell phone. Costumes are Bobo, right down to Annette Raleigh’s red-soled Louboutins. Finally, avoiding spoilers, the play features a moment of Pythonesque grotesquerie. I still don’t know how Belfy did it, but I’d hate to be the theatre’s carpet cleaner.

Spring is here, and Belfry Theatre’s production of God of Carnage provides a vicarious release for the “fucking Neanderthal” in all of us.

 

God of Carnage

by Tasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

Directed by Glynis Leyshon

with Bill Dow (Michael Novak), Vincent Gale (Alan Raleigh), Sarah Orenstein (Veronica Novak) and Celine Stubel (Annette Raleigh)

Designer: John Ferguson

Lighting Designer: Guy Simard

Sound Designer: Brian Linds

Running Time: 85 minutes with no intermission

Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue

Telephone 250-385-6815

April 17 – May 20, 2012

Review based on 19/04/2012 performance

 

 

 

By Brent Schaus

arts@mondaymag.com

Just Posted

Mix and mingle at free artist talk today atop Bastion Square parkade

Public art the topic of panel discussion; concert, food and beverage options also part of evening

Taking risks: Victoria theatre expert and author gains traction for his new model of tragedy

Edwin Wong releases Risk Theatre book, hosts successful global playwriting competition

Award-nominated Snotty Nose Rez Kids headline this weekend’s Indigifest 2019 in Esquimalt

Aug. 24 event at Esquimalt Gorge Park showcases Indigenous musicians, artists from around B.C.

Region’s 250th Little Free Library installed in Victoria

Greater Victoria now has the highest density of mapped little libraries in the country

PHOTO GALLERY: Cyclists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated, locals and visitors alike

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

New ‘Matrix’ film set with Keanu Reeves and Lana Wachowski

Fourth installment to feature Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity

Margaret Atwood talks Handmaid’s Tale sequel at UVic

Sold-out Sept. 27 event illustrates iconic Canadian author’s popularity in literary haven of Victoria

For the Love of Fibre: Fibrations 2019 wrapup

Fibre arts celebrated through demonstrations and market showcasing locally made items

Tour de Victoria: Giving you the down low on detours around the region

Thousands of cyclists participating in ninth Tour de Victoria on Saturday

Christopher Auchter’s story headed to the international stage at Toronto International Film Fest

Old Massett totem pole raising revisited in Christopher Auchter’s documentary Now Is The Time

Saanich Peninsula student scores only scholarship for Canadians offered by top U.S. music school

Stelly’s grad Isaiah Carvalhal-Smith and his electric bass off to Boston after successful audition

Yellow Wolf Powwow draws dancers from across Canada

Saanichton event a celebration of Indigenous culture

Victoria-based elephant advocate fighting to end ivory trade

Founder of World Elephant Day hopes to spread awareness, add political pressure

Most Read