Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s “God of Carnage” Tempers Intensity with Humor
By Marjorie Preston
The Tony award-winning “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, is currently opening the mainstage season at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre (CVLT). “God of Carnage” is an intense play and this CVLT production wisely plays up the dry humor, much to the delight of its audience.
Because eleven-year-old Benjamin Raleigh has hit his classmate, Henry Novak, in the face with a stick, literally knocking two of his teeth in, the boys’ parents meet to draft a joint statement about what happened – for the insurance company, it is assumed – and the veneer of civility falls hard.
The aggressor’s father, Alan Raleigh (David Malinowski), a lawyer with his head glued to a cell phone, objects to the phrase “armed with a stick,” and the victim’s mother, Veronica Novak (Dawn Hill), a writer focused on Africa, offers to change it to something less inflammatory. Unfortunately, the gauntlet appears to be thrown down. The two sets of parents soon dig their heels in against each other, including Annette Raleigh (Evie Koh), wealth manager, and Michael Novak (Mark DePompei), owner of a retail store.
These four capable actors do not miss a beat in their portrayal of parents teetering on the line between discussing the actions of their kids and defending their unique perspectives and way of life. They confess their own struggles with balancing marriage, children and work, and end up in a candid group therapy session with no clear leader.
Malinowski is lizard-like as the darty-eyed lawyer, while his on-stage wife Koh is enjoyable as the tightly wound wife who comes unglued while drinking rum. DePompei is fun as the working man who turns crude when pushed and Hill, the writer incredulous at injustice, when under stress she can be more concerned with appearances and books than with the people in her life.
Director David Malinowski, in addition to stepping in to fill the role of Alan due to a family illness of another actor, ably directs the show and serves as set designer as well. He wears all hats well, as his cast is strong and his direction has brought out the dry humor in a play about an unfortunate and tragic event. His design of bright blue and red offsets the tasteful, modern Brooklyn home’s black and beige, and echoes the efforts to play up the lighter side of this drama.
With this play, Reza appears to be asking if, in fact, we are civilized at all, and her answer to that seems to be that humans are hopelessly selfish. But in this well-cast CVLT production of “God of Carnage,” we can laugh through our angst.
“God of Carnage” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through October 20 at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, 40 River Street, Chagrin Falls. For tickets, call (440) 247-8955 or visit www.cvlt.org. The play contains adult language and themes.