Friday, April 15, 2011

Theater preview: 'God of Carnage' exposes the beasts within

Kim Ostrenko,‭ ‬Nick Santa Maria,‭ ‬Kim Cozort
and Michael Serratore in God of Carnage.

By Hap Erstein

There is a lot more carnage then there are signs of‭ ‬God in Yasmina Reza’s‭ ‬2009‭ ‬Tony Award-winning best play,‭ ‬God of Carnage,‭ ‬which opens this evening at the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton.‭

As she did with her earlier acclaimed comedy‭ ‬Art,‭ ‬Reza enjoys conjuring up adults moved by circumstances to act childishly.‭ ‬In that earlier play,‭ ‬it was three men,‭ ‬long-time friends whose bond is snapped when one of them buys and flaunts an expensive,‭ ‬minimalist painting.‭ ‬Similarly,‭ ‬God of Carnage concerns two civilized,‭ ‬upscale couples who come together to discuss calmly an act of playground violence between their sons,‭ ‬but are soon reduced to hostile children themselves.‭

As Kenneth Kay,‭ ‬who directs the Caldwell production,‭ ‬says of Reza,‭ “‬She’s very interested in discovering what’s underneath relationships,‭ ‬whether it’s three guys dealing with a painting or two sets of parents dealing with an altercation.‭ ‬She loves to peel away those layers.‭”

“I thought it was pretty funny,‭ ‬because OK,‭ ‬we’re adults,‭ ‬quote-unquote,‭ ‬but we also have the potential to be childish,‭” ‬says actress Kim Ostrenko,‭ ‬who plays wealth manager Annette.‭ “‬And I’ve seen it because I live in a condo and I was involved,‭ ‬unfortunately,‭ ‬with the board for a while.‭ ‬Wow,‭ ‬do you see it there.‭ ‬Those people go crazy.‭ ‬All decorum and adult behavior just goes out the window,‭ ‬and they just go down to their most primitive behavior.‭”

“We’ve seen all kinds of soccer moms and dads,‭ ‬and heard news reports of how they go ballistic,‭” ‬chimes in Kim Cozort,‭ ‬who plays writer Veronica.‭ “‬When I was working with a children’s theater program and directing kids,‭ ‬I saw these parents at the auditions accosting me,‭ ‬saying‭ ‘‬I saw you give more attention to that kid.‭’ ‬I tried to be so nice and,‭ ‬boy,‭ ‬underneath they were ready to just take me out.‭”

“It’s a human thing.‭ ‬When you strip it away,‭ ‬we are a human animal,‭” ‬adds Michael Serratore,‭ ‬playing wholesaler Mike,‭ ‬Veronica’s husband.‭ “‬We have two natures.‭ ‬We aspire to godliness,‭ ‬but we also have a base nature.‭”

In the course of the play,‭ ‬not only does civility dissolve before our eyes,‭ ‬but characters gang up on each other.‭ “‬With one word it can turn on a dime,‭” ‬says Cozort.‭ “‬Alliances can change‭ ‬--‭ ‬male against female,‭ ‬couple against couple‭ ‬--‭ ‬but you have to be present at every moment.‭ ‬We have to be on at all times,‭ ‬listening,‭ ‬ready.‭ ‬With this play,‭ ‬there’s nowhere to hide.‭”

“From a structural point of view,‭ ‬it’s the kind of play that I like to direct,‭” ‬says Kay.‭ “‬It’s got a real mix of outlandish comedy,‭ ‬some funny physical stuff and ultimately,‭ ‬it’s just a great story about these four people who come together to try to figure this incident out and solve it.‭”

Still,‭ ‬God of Carnage may not be to everyone’s taste.‭ “‬My mother is afraid to come see the show,‭” ‬says Nick Santa Maria,‭ ‬who plays cell phone-obsessed lawyer Alan,‭ ‬married to Annette.‭ “‬She said,‭ ‘‬What’s it like‭?’ ‬I said,‭ ‘‬Ma,‭ ‬it’s a comedy,‭ ‬but it’s kind of unpleasant.‭’ ‬She’s not sure she wants to see her son be unpleasant.‭”

The previous time Santa Maria appeared at the Caldwell was‭ ‬11‭ ‬years ago in Joe DiPietro’s‭ ‬Over the River and Through the Woods,‭ ‬a feel-good comedy.‭ “‬With a lot of warmth,‭” ‬he notes.‭ “‬This is the opposite.‭”

GOD OF CARNAGE,‭ ‬Caldwell Theatre Company,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Friday,‭ ‬April‭ ‬15-Sunday,‭ ‬May‭ ‬15.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$27-$50.‭ ‬Call:‭ ‬(561‭) ‬241-7432.

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