John Cassini, Vickie Papavs, Shauna Black, Oliver Becker

What happens when two couples meet to discuss their 11 year old boys’ fight turned into a couple of broken teeth? This meeting of four distinct characters forms the backbone of God of Carnage, currently playing at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

Although the couples decide to allow their two children to settle the matter by way of a meeting that evening at Michael (Oliver Becker) and Veronica (Shauna Black) Novak’s home, this never winds up being shown on stage. What happens is a chaotic romp through each character’s descent into their own personal madnesses, volatilities, and obsessions.

John Cassini, Vickie Papavs
[John Cassini, Vickie Papavs]

The stage is set inside the Novak’s modern home, where Alan (John Cassini) and Annette (Vickie Papavs) Raleigh are invited to meet, share Veronica’s homemade clafouti (“is it a cake or a tart”?), and arrive at an agreement. The domestic turmoil that ensues about midway through changes each character dramatically for the rest of the play. I was reminded many times of last year’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Arts Club Theatre), where alcohol-infused dialogues also transform two couples into nasty renditions of their original selves.

Shauna Black, Oliver Becker
[Shauna Black, Oliver Becker]

Themes of humanity, anger, loss of patience, and family are strong; the four actors are all excellent and visit their range of emotions beautifully.

I’d hoped (though not part of the script) that the two boys would finally appear on stage, to see how the four characters might have instilled their traits onto their offspring. After all, the play’s main drive is the two boys and how they will remedy this matter.

John Cassini, Vickie Papavs
[John Cassini, Vickie Papavs]

I found the choice of opening and closing number tune (The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling“) curious. Was this CTV, a 2010 Winter Olympic Games, or God of Carnage moment?

God of Carnage was originally performed in 2006 in Zürich, two years later performed in Paris starring Isabelle Huppert and Eric Elmosnino. It was translated into English by Christopher Hampton at around that time. Playwright Yasmina Reza (who also wrote the 1995 hit comedy, Art) is behind this 75 minute, one act play.

Oliver Becker, Shauna Black
[Oliver Becker, Shauna Black]

God of Carnage, originally a co-production between the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, performs through May 5 at the Playhouse Theatre and is presented by Vancouver Civic Theatres. Visit the website for details and ticket information. This production will close off Vancouver Playhouse Theatre’s season as the company’s operations wind down, handing the theatre baton to Vancouver Civic Theatres.

Photos courtesy of Bruce Monk.

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