Saturday, April 23, 2011

Theater review: 'Carnage' shows parents behaving badly, but still getting laughs

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

By Hap Erstein

Like her earlier Tony Award-winning comedy‭ ‬Art,‭ ‬playwright Yasmina Reza again explores adults behaving childishly in‭ ‬God of Carnage,‭ ‬which took Broadway by storm in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬and looks likely to meet a similarly appreciative audience at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre.‭ ‬After all,‭ ‬there is a universal joy in watching others try to maintain civility and failing miserably.

As with her earlier trio of pals whose friendship dissolves before our eyes over an expensive,‭ ‬yet minimalist painting,‭ ‬the French-born Iranian writer again mines a situation that we can simultaneously identify with and feel superior to.‭

Two married couples,‭ ‬upscale residents of Brooklyn’s gentrified Cobble Hill neighborhood,‭ ‬meet for coffee and a precious pastry known as clafoutis to discuss‭ ‬--‭ ‬calmly and rationally‭ ‬--‭ ‬a playground scuffle between their‭ ‬11-year-old sons,‭ ‬in order to reach an appropriate punishment and perhaps to gain an apology.‭ ‬Fat chance.

The veneer of civility is only fleeting,‭ ‬giving way to a profane,‭ ‬high-energy,‭ ‬physical comedy production choreographed as much as it is directed by Kenneth Kay.‭

Over the course of‭ ‬85‭ ‬intermission-less minutes,‭ ‬scenic designer Tim Bennett’s well-appointed living room space‭ ‬--‭ ‬which resembles an adult sandbox‭ ‬--‭ ‬is reduced to shambles,‭ ‬and how it gets there is much of the fun.

The characters change positions at regular intervals as they form and dissolve alliances with each other,‭ ‬but initially the hosts,‭ ‬Veronica‭ (‬Kim Cozort‭) ‬and Michael‭ (‬Michael Serratore‭) ‬Novak,‭ ‬a writer devoted to art and to humanitarian causes and her volatile husband,‭ ‬a purveyor of wholesale household goods,‭ ‬are on opposite sides of the stage,‭ ‬sizing up their prey seated on the couch.‭ ‬They are Annette‭ (‬Kim Ostrenko‭) ‬and Alan‭ (‬Nick Santa Maria‭)‬,‭ ‬a passive wealth manager and a combative lawyer attached to his cell phone.‭ ‬He is barely engaged in the parenting chore before him,‭ ‬far more involved in damage control for his culpable pharmaceutical client.‭

At first,‭ ‬Annette is embarrassed by her spouse’s lack of interest in their son’s altercation,‭ ‬which turns into a physical illness brought on by the stress of the situation.‭ ‬Or maybe from the clafoutis.‭ ‬In any event,‭ ‬Reza has written in a humdinger of a projectile vomiting scene,‭ ‬and the Caldwell tech staff executes it with very credible,‭ ‬though messy skill.‭

God of Carnage is not the most profound play you are likely to encounter this season,‭ ‬but it is entertaining and Reza knows how to impart some insights on the human condition while concentrating on earning laughs.

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

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