“God of Carnage” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ November 21, 2011


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

In its local premiere, the hysterical contemporary lifestyle comedy, “God of Carnage,” lacks the consistent comic zing and slapstick physical shenanigans it had in its wonderfully zany original Broadway production.  Arizona Theatre Company’s staging has its funny moments and there are times that the Rick Lombardo directed staging takes off with the mandated hilarity, but too often it seems contrived and misses several comedic punches.  The four-person acting ensemble has two strong performances but two portrayals disappoint.  You’ll laugh but the short Yasmina Reza play seems to drag on much longer than in New York.

The problem lies in the cast and staging.  Even the better cast members don’t connect completely with or become their characters.  Too often we’re watching good actors portray characters rather than comic farceurs becoming these people.  Lombardo’s staging meanders too often when it should spark as the comic slings should evolve more naturally from actors who work too hard to become the characters and make the malarkey laughable.

Reza’s sharp-edged play is loaded with hilarious dialogue that should bend audiences over with constant laughter as it glimpses two couples grappling with their respective sons’ fight that caused one boy to loose two teeth.  The couples try to act civilized but soon nerves brings the parents to awful behavior.  True character emerges as biases step to the forefront.  Accusations, character assassinations, and immature silliness pervade attempts to bring semblance to the situation.  The parents are as infantile as the kids and the play suggests society hasn’t come very far from cave dwellers.

The ATC production stoops to blatant preachiness by making the living room setting with its crude rock walls imply we still live in caves and, at the play’s conclusion, cavemen flash on the set.  In New York, a sleek apartment set didn’t blatantly picture the play’s easy-to-grasp inferences.

The two strong performances come from Joey Parsons’ Annette and Benjamin Evett’s Alan, the parents of the kid who hit Veronica and Michael’s son.  Parsons especially turns from a politically correct and evenly modulated parent to a ferocious finger pointer, while Evett comes unglued from his constantly ringing cell phone and rum that adds fuel to the fire between the four.  Amy Resnick’s whiny Veronica grows annoying and petty as the play progresses, while Bob Sorenson is miscast as Michael in a performance intent on toning the character down instead of playing it for all its comic hilarity as Jeff Daniels did originally.

It’s a shame that the local debut of this hilarious comedy isn’t sharper, comically zanier, and more like the much funnier original.  It continues through December 4 at the Herberger Theater Center.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: C


One Response to ““God of Carnage” – Arizona Theatre Company”

  1. Marilyn McLauchlan said:

    Dec 03, 11 at 21:19

    I left the theater this evening exhausted from laughing and from the emotional roller coaster of the performances. I honest to carnage cannot fathom anyone having the physical and intellectual ability to perform the play back to back as they did today. I thought the actors were brilliant. Frankly, I think you are either more interested in writing a clever review or that the performances have improved since your attendance. I hope you attend the last performance tomorrow night. And I loved the rock wall; it was so Arizona.
    Marilyn from Bainbridge Island, Wa