In the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, two sets of parents, Alan, a corporate lawyer, and Annette, who works in “wealth management,” visit the apartment of Michael, a wholesaler, and Veronica, a writer, to discuss how to deal with an unfortunate incident that occurred in Cobble Hill Park the previous day. Following a “verbal altercation,” Alan and Annette’s son, Freddy, hit Michael and Veronica’s son, Bruno, with a stick, breaking two of his teeth. The parents have gathered to discuss, rationally and amicably, how to deal with the boys.
ABOUT THE PLAY
God of Carnage was inspired on a real-life experience. Reza explains, “There was a little incident in the life of my son. He was then about 13 or 14 and his friend was in a fight with another friend; they exchanged blows and my son’s friend had his tooth broken. A few days later, I met with the mother of this boy in the street. I asked her how her son was, if he was better, because I knew they’d had to do something to the tooth—they’d had to operate or something. And she said, ‘Can you imagine? The parents (of the other boy in the fight) didn’t even call me.’”
The resulting work was Le Dieu du carnage (God of Carnage), one of the most popular and acclaimed plays of the last 10 years. First performed in Zürich in 2006, it opened in London in March, 2008, in a translation by Christopher Hampton. The London production won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The play premiered on Broadway in 2009 and won Best Play at the 2009 Tony Awards. The Broadway production closed on June 6, 2010 playing 24 previews and 452 regular performances. It is the third-longest running play of the 2000’s. In 2011 it was adapted to film as Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski, starring Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster.
Influences of Shakespeare on Yasmina Reza
Among the influences of Shakespeare evident in Yasmina Reza’s plays are the following:
Accessibility to the audience of the time
As Shakespeare never forgot the audience of his time – even though it ranged from the groundlings to royalty and the intellectual community – Reza’s work maintains an appeal the everyday life and human nature of the audience of her time. For Shakespeare, the appeal has lived on through 400 years, but only as it started by piquing the interest of his original audience at a level of universal humanity that has continued its appeal through history. Reza’s plays are not aimed at any particular audience, and therefore offer an appeal to a wide and disparate base. She has said, “There’s no point in writing theatre if it isn’t accessible, because no one will see it. The greatest playwrights such as Shakespeare or Molière – to whom, by the way, I am not comparing myself – they were also accessible.”
Common themes of maintaining acceptable conduct under a veneer of civility
Audiences often discover that the best behavior of many of the characters in Shakespeare’s comedies are thin and fragile veneers maintained for the purpose of manipulating public opinion (think of Beatrice and Benedict at the height of their civility). In Reza’s work, her characters often struggle to maintain similar veneers, and when those disguises disintegrate, the “real” character comes forth.
Artfully crafted dialogue, invention of words
The quality and artistry of Shakespeare’s dialogue set a world standard in his earliest plays. When he needed new words and phrases, he invented them or borrowed them from other languages. Today Reza’s writes in French, but her plays have been translated into a number of other languages. When translated into English, she has found that American English is superior to the formality of British English. She says, “American English is much closer to French than British English is. English is a beautiful language, but in England it’s very formal and doesn’t allow invention. American English is informal, keen to take influences, to invent words, just as I write in French.” Further, she notes, “I write from my intuition, my sense of freedom, my feeling for words and rhythm.” Shakespeare, of course, always wrote with a keen sense for words and rhythm.
A clear view into characters’ psyches
Shakespeare gave his audiences a look into the psyche of his characters, sometimes using soliloquy, but often using dialogue to reveal the driving forces within – along with the confusion that accompanies intense emotional conflicts. At the same time, he did not belabor his audiences by dwelling on childhood causes for his characters’ current psychological states. Similarly, Reza doesn’t seek to explain or deconstruct her characters’ backgrounds for the audience. She says of her characters, “I’m not interested in what they were like as children, in psychoanalysis, because writing is totally instinctive. I work like a painter. If a painter is doing a portrait of someone, he’s not interested in their childhood; he paints what he sees. There’s no explanation because it doesn’t mean anything.” Reza uses dialogue, permitting her characters to “spill” themselves to the audience through conversation with another character. As a result, the audience is able to enjoy a similar degree of dramatic irony as a Shakespearean audience.
A challenge to self-knowledge
Shakespeare’s plays are not openly didactic, but several offer his audiences opportunities to make observations about human nature that they can take home and apply to their own lives. Reza’s work often offers similar, and perhaps less subtle, challenges to self-knowledge through the characters and plots of her plays.
Clear portraits of human nature through characterization
Shakespeare was a master observer of human nature and an unchallenged artist in creating characters that bring portraits of human nature to the stage. Reza has also shown a real talent at singling out the subtleties of human nature and staging them clearly for the discovery and enjoyment of her audiences as well.
Cast & Staff
Cast & Staff
(in the order of their appearance)
|Veronica Vallon||Rachel McKendree|
|Michael Vallon||Chris Kanaga|
|Annette Raleigh||Sr. Danielle Dwyer|
|Alan Raleigh||Brad Lussier|
Sr. Danielle Dwyer
Assistant & Technical Director
News & Reviews
News & Reviews
Cape Cod Times Review
By Roger Shoemaker
Posted Nov. 11, 2014 @ 7:18 pm
ORLEANS – There is something funny and disturbing and wonderfully dramatic happening in Orleans. It is Elements Theater Company’s production of Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage.”
We enter a tastefully appointed living room, in which two couples have met to have a civilized and productive conversation about the fact that one couple’s son has hit the other couple’s son in the mouth with a bamboo pole, breaking two teeth.
Our hostess, Veronica Vallon, is the mother of 11-year old Bruno of the broken teeth. She is a writer, art historian and all-around good-doer. Her husband, Michael, is a home-goods wholesaler, mild of manners.
The parents of aggressor Freddy are Alan, an attorney in the employ of a pharmaceutical firm, and his wife, Annette, who describes herself as in “wealth management” (presumably Alan’s).
The two couples are working overly hard to be civil in what clearly has the possibility of becoming a heated confrontation. As expected, civility soon breaks down, and what ensues is a complex dance of conflicts and alliances which pit each and all against each and all in a production which is excruciatingly funny, and at times just plain excruciating.
Rachel McKendree, as Veronica, drives the first half of the play with her ever-fading grip on civility at all costs. Michael, as played by Chris Kanag, undergoes an extraordinary transformation as the play proceeds, eventually taking off his sweater, untucking his shirt and displaying the self his wife has tried so hard to hide.
Brad Lussier, as Alan the attorney, also moves to shirtsleeves, but is able to hang on to his intellectual distance, even though he continues to call his wife by her pet name, “Woof-Woof.”
Sister Danielle Dwyer, as “Woof-Woof” herself, Annette, also displays virtuoso acting skills as her character moves from prim reasonableness to the chaos of despair.
And, yes, all of it is very, very funny. This is the kind of humor that makes you think. You laugh, then are ashamed of yourself for laughing. Then you laugh again, this time harder.
Elements Theatre Company is a true repertory company and more, in that not only are the same actors involved in the productions, but they are also a major part of the creative production team. The show is ably directed by Dwyer. She has a lovely feel for pace and style, without which this script could easily fall into farce or melodrama, and it is neither. Lussier is the company’s dramaturg, and McKendree Veronica teaches classes and workshops for the company. Kanaga is the technical director and has coordinated an excellent set design by Sisters Sarah Allen and Annemarie Norman, and effective and unobtrusiv4e lighting design by Tom Lynch and Steve Witter. Costumes, stage properties, sound effects, every detail is carefully chosen to enforce the style and content of the Element Theatre Company’s production of this extraordinary script.
This play and production represent the 21st-century evolution of the theatrical worldviews of Chekhov, only with easier names, and Albee’s famous two-couples play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” only with humor in place of vitriol. It is a fine night of theater, and audiences will come away both entertained and enlightened.
From the Director
From the Director
Welcome to our reprisal of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage.
The truth can be ugly sometimes, or a lot of the time. Yet, much of why theatre is done is the search for truth. When we see, hear and feel it we know it. This experience roots us in a greater sense of our humanity and our need for relationships outside of ourselves.
Yasmina Reza wrote God of Carnage in part due to an experience of a friend. Her son’s friend suffered like Bruno in this play but there was no meeting of the parents to iron things out. Disturbed by this lack of relationship, Reza conjured up this piece of theatre.
Reza has this to say about theatre, “Theatre is a mirror, a sharp reflection of society. The greatest playwrights are moralists.” She also aims to write theatre that is accessible. In this play, its accessibility has a lot to do with the raw honesty of these characters. In moments of dismantled pretension and hypocrisy, ugly lines are thrown out with no apology and left to sting the air and the person who received them. These volleys have a cleansing effect on the characters, relieving some of the tension in this Brooklyn apartment.
For the actors there is always the question, am I willing to be this ugly, this naked? Reza’s characters need this commitment and for the actor, there is cleansing involved allowing yourself to be used in this way.
This November, heading toward Thanksgiving, we are grateful at Elements Theatre Company for playwrights who are willing to courageously harrow out the truest expressions of people who need to be known.
Thank you for joining us,
See and Hear
See and Hear
God of Carnage
Paraclete House, Orleans
November 14-15, 21-22 – 7:30pm
November 16 + 23 – 3:00pm
Price: $35 General | $30 Senior | 18 & Under Free
Wine and cheese receptions to follow performances at Paraclete House