A voyeuristic view of a fight can be awfully funny.
That fight turns hilarious in the dark comedy God of Carnage, now playing at None Too Fragile in Akronís Merriman Valley. French playwright Yasmina Reza explores the fine line between civility and nastiness, illuminating manís animalistic impulses.
The play, which runs without intermission, is set in the living room of Michael and Veronica, who have a meeting with Alan and Annette after the latter coupleís 11-year-old son knocks their sonís teeth out with a stick at a park.
The meeting begins with civility as the couples communicate about covering dental costs and arrange to have their boys make up. It is revealed that Benjamin attacked Henry because Henry wouldnít let him join his gang.
You know things are going downhill when lawyer Alan harps on the phrase ďarmed with a stickĒ and the fathers start to joke about the good old days of being in a gang.
In the adept hands of actors Bob Ellis, Jeffrey Grover, Jen Klika and Jacqi Loewy, directed by Sean Derry, itís a laugh-upon-laugh treat to watch this meeting devolve into chaos. Ellis, Grover and Loewy are Equity actors, and itís a milestone for this tiny, cutting-edge theater, which is newly nonprofit, to be able to afford Equity contracts.
Akron actress Klika is one of the most comical performers as the ultra-prim Veronica. She is the one who loses the most control, so seeing her transformation from an uptight champion of civility to a cursing woman who becomes involved in a physical altercation is quite the sight to behold.
Reza uses wonderful details, such the serving of the pastry clafouti, to set the scene for supposedly refined people who end up losing all self-control. Her award-winning play, which premiered in France in 2006, London in 2008 and on Broadway in 2009, has these parents, presumably so worried about their barbaric children, acting increasingly like children. The play was adapted into a 2011 movie directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet.
At None Too Fragile, Ellis is humorous as laid-back louse Michael, Grover is a hoot as sarcastic Alan and Loewy is also amusing as the put-upon Annette. The too-busy lawyer Alan at first acts as if heís uninterested in this meeting, having been dragged to it by his wife. But we learn that even he is not above the fray.
In this comedy of bad manners, itís fascinating to watch the dynamics shift between warring couples, then men vs. women, and husband vs. wife.
The show is peppered with adult language, some physical fighting and misogynistic, racist and homophobic remarks amid its charactersí tirades.
Reza also creates interesting parallels to both the boysí and the parentsí bad behavior as annoying Alan takes numerous calls on his cellphone. As you listen to this shark instructing the pharmaceutical company he represents not to take responsibility for a problem with a drug, you realize his lawyerly attitude of survival of the fittest, rather than acknowledging the truth, is the way he lives his life.
Thatís not to say that the play doesnít have levity. Groverís smile alone as Alan is enough to make you laugh, especially as Veronica innocently gives him a pat-down, trying to clean him up after his perfect suit gets dirty. The knowing smile that smug Alan gives Veronicaís husband is worth the price of admission.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.