REVIEW: God of Carnage

Yasmina Reza’s play is a tug-of-war between the pursuit of perfection and one’s own humanity

There’s no magic rulebook explaining how to be a perfect parent. Yet every mother and father pair seems to think they know best when it comes to raising little Johnny or Suzy. And when two couples’ how-to-parent guidelines don’t match up, well, that’s when all rules go out the window. Which is precisely what happens in God of Carnage, the latest production at Guthrie Theater’s McGuire Proscenium stage. Consisting of just four characters and taking place in the same setting throughout, the play embodies the minimalist qualities of all Yasmina Reza productions, as well as her use of comedy to explore existential concepts.

In Carnage, Reza pits two married couples, Veronica and Michael Novak (played by Jennifer Blagen and Chris Carlson) and Annette and Alan Raleigh (Tracey Maloney and Bill McCallum), against one another as they meet to discuss a fight that’s taken place between their sons. Set in the Novaks’ living room, the conversation between the couples ebbs and flows from stilted politeness to embarrassing revelations to sharp criticism to full-out brutal honesty.

As the dialogue moves to its own rhythm, so, too, do the dynamics and energy of the show, forever shifting as the alliances between characters change: from couple on couple, to men versus women, to one against all, and back again. Keeping things even more interesting is each actor’s acute ability to communicate nonverbally—awkward glances, genius body language, intonation, and unmistakable facial expressions add an extra layer to the play’s already clever script.

Highly intelligent and often familiar in a somewhat embarrassing way, Gods of Carnage taps into those thoughts and feelings that, although we attempt to bury and ignore them, never really disappear, reminding us that the “gods of Carnage” are still very alive and well, roaming around and taking a stand even in today’s supposedly civilized world.

God of Carnage
Through August 7
Guthrie Theater, 730 Second Ave. S., Mpls.