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"God of Carnage" at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

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God of Carnage
(God of Carnage Website)

By Yasmina Reza

Presented by Robert Fox,
David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, Stuart Thompson,
Scott Rudin, Jon B. Platt, The Weinstein Company
The Shubert Organization

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street

Jeff Daniels as Alan
Hope Davis as Annette
James Gandolfini as Michael
Marcia Gay Harden as Veronica

Directed by Matthew Warchus

Scenic and Costume Design: Mark Thompson
Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
Casting: Daniel Swee
General Management: STP/David Turner
Music: Gary Yershon
Sound Design: Simon Baker/Christopher Cronin
Production Management: Aurora Productions

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 12, 2009

Two Brooklyn Heights couples, Alan and Annette and Michael and Veronica, meet one evening at the latter couple’s brownstone to resolve a playground fight between their sons. Michael and Veronica’s son has broken teeth and vague pain from a beating from Alan and Annette’s little scamp. These are not ordinary actors in this very ordinary scenario, which might be playing out in every school district and private school around the country. No, these actors are Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis (Alan and Annette) and James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden (Michael and Veronica). The setting proudly shows off earthy red and brick walls, with uncluttered contemporary couches, coffee table, and pure white tulips.

What ensues is not as emotionally draining on audience or characters as was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and laughs erupt serendipitously throughout, but the staid, sophisticated, New York culture banter soon turns to explosive, coarse, New York invective. Annette tenses up and becomes sick all over Veronica’s rare, art-photography, coffee table books. Michael tries to dry them with Veronica’s noisy hair dryer. Alan, a lawyer, stands aside, chugs down all of Veronica’s carefully baked clafoutis, and answers his cell every second to field legal issues for his pharmaceutical client, coincidentally involving the same drug that Michael’s mother is calling about. Meanwhile, Michael fields family wrath for taking its pet hamster for a one-way trip to the sidewalk, and Veronica verges on a full, public breakdown.

The children are never seen, and they will probably move on emotionally and socially, but their parents are in the power of pride and obsession. The characters move about the room, pounce on furniture and one another, chase a bottle of rum, start to leave, sit down again, and, for a time, support the opposite sex, then same sex, spouse of the other couple. An underlying theme of Darfur takes hold, as Veronica is writing a book, and the final scene adds an African musical backdrop.

Marcia Gay Harden is the most powerful actor of the four, with a lucky role that has room for wild antics and adorable grandstanding. James Gandolfini (whom it was hard to see from my side box seat) plays his role with sizable humor and casual charm, especially when Annette bends down to kiss his forehead. Jeff Daniels is brimming with swagger and strutting as only a lawyer knows how. His callous arrogance takes his wife prisoner along with the hosts. Hope Davis has a more one-dimensional role, focusing on her stomach malaise and elusive husband. Michael and Veronica’s upscale home is left in ruins, but the couples survive.

Kudos to Playwright, Yasmina Reza, Director, Matthew Warchus, Translator (from the French), Christopher Hampton, and Scenic and Costume Designer, Mark Thompson. A second cast will soon arrive to keep the God of Carnage’s fury burning at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at