God of Carnage
"Find out what happens...when people stop being polite... and start getting real." I’m not talking about "The Real World." I’m talking about the real world. I’m also talking about "God of Carnage," the latest production at The Dallas Theater Center.
"The Real World" is anything but real. But "God of Carnage" is frighteningly so. So real, in fact, that if you’re sitting in "the splash zone," you just might find yourself with a little vomit on your shoes. (Fake vomit. But still.)
This show is not of the fake horror variety. It’s the kind of horror of which everyday life is made. The plot is simple. Two boys get in a fight on a playground. One hits the other with a bamboo stick. Teeth are lost. Parents get involved. Mayhem ensues.
"God of Carnage" opens on two sets of parents of the boys in the fight, of course; Alan and Annette, the parents of the boy who did the hitting, sit in the living room of Veronica and Michael, the parents of the boy who was hit.
Things start off reasonably well, as things often do. But the longer they talk, the more they get to the heart of things. Michael is wishy-washy and goes along with whatever his wife says. Alan is always on the phone. Always. Annette is tired of playing second to her husband’s job and his phone.
"That cell phone is making mincemeat out of our lives," she says to Alan. "Everything happening somewhere else is more important to you."
In other words, the gloves come off and the tempers flare up minute by minute until the four of them combust. They each explode, implode and explode again. They ally themselves first spouse to spouse, and then gender to gender. The result is nothing short of horrifying and hilarious and real.
The cast is beyond talented, with Hassan El-Amin as Michael, Chris Hury as Alan, Sally Nystuen-Vahle as Annette, and Christie Vela as Veronica. Their facial expressions alone are mind-blowing. But their ability to go in and out and up and down emotionally and physically is what makes this show shine. And shine it does.
Perhaps some of the most poignant and painful lines come from Alan.
"Women think too much. What we like about women is sensuality...Women who are custodians of the world depress us."
"You see couples getting married and you think, ’you have no idea.’ Marriage is the most terrible ordeal God can inflict on you."
"Children consume our lives and then destroy them... You do what you can to save yourself."
The surprising part is, perhaps, how much "God of Carnage" will make you laugh. And not just nervous laughter either. I mean real gut-busting laughter, like when Veronica actually balances her weight on her outstretched arms leaning on a rum bottle while slipping her shoes back on.
Or, Annette pushing Veronica over the sofa and then grabbing tulips from the vases onstage and pitching them everywhere before breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably.
This is a play about what happens when we stop worrying about the way society wants us to act and we start responding like the animals that we are. The irony is that the boys are in trouble for acting animalistically -- which is exactly how the parents end up acting.
The truth is that we all want to be perceived in a certain way. But when we are pushed to our limits, that façade slips. Quickly.
"God of Carnage" gives audiences the chance to reflect on who they are -- the man who chooses his cell phone over his family, the woman who has become nothing more than wife and mother, the man who is so hen-pecked he no longer even recognizes that fact, or the woman who cares more about the well-being of coffee table books than of another human being.
There are shows you see to laugh. There are shows you see to cry. There are shows you see to lose yourself in another world. Then there is "God of Carnage," a show you see because not seeing it is too dangerous when we’re all seconds away from losing it.
We’re not in charge no matter how much we think we are. Who is? Alan believes he knows, "I believe in the God of Carnage. He has been in charge since the dawn of time."
"God of Carnage" runs through June 17 at Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas. For info or tickets, call 214-880-0202 or visit http://www.dallastheatercenter.org/show_details.php?sid=44