It’s always a treat when a Yasmina Reza play graces the stage. Third Wall Theatre Company’s current production is its rendition of Reza’s Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage and it does this complex play justice. It is most certainly worth seeing. God of Carnage runs until March 2 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company www.thirdwall.com.
Two upper-middle-class couples are brought together by a park brawl between their sons, leaving one of the boys with two damaged teeth. The victim’s parents, Véronique and Michel Vallon, invite the attacker’s parents, Alan and Annette Reille, to their home to figure out how to deal with the situation.
At first everyone is polite and civilized but you can cut the air with a knife it is so thick. (The acting is fabulous.) Immediately, you just don’t like any of the characters. Alan, a high-powered sleazy lawyer who can’t keep his cell phone off his ear as he deals with a client’s emergency, is clearly there because he has been forced to do so and can barely cover up the fact that he just doesn’t really see what the big deal is. Annette, his wife, who at first you think is merely severely uptight, works in “wealth management” and wants to be just right.
As for the victim’s parents, his father Michel is a salesman and an almost affable type of fellow, while the mother Véronique, who immediately irritates, is a writer and art aficionado who desperately tries to evoke some level of contrition from the other parents and their son.
At first, the conversation is awkward as the parents try to address the issue with their sons. All four actors, Todd Duckworth (Alan), Kristina Watt (Annette), John Koensgen (Michel) and Mary Ellis (Veronique), brilliantly navigate through that discussion and the parents’ discomfort is palpable.
As the meeting progresses, the layers of false politesse and courtesy begin to disappear, revealing that the parents are in fact all quite miserable. You almost feel empathy for Annette as she is literally made sick by her husband’s phone distraction and lack of attention (there are some funny vomit scenes).
When the alcohol comes out, the situation degenerates further and all civility is lost. Flowers fly, the couples fight among themselves and then are pitted against each other. In odd twists and turns, the women are pitted against the men and vice-versa.
The acting for the most part is fabulous. When things do collapse into chaos, the women’s dramatic displays seem a bit over the top and slightly forced, but that doesn’t take away from the overall greatness of the production. While Koensgen and Duckworth stand out, Watt and Ellis definitely hold their own.
The set at first glance is simple but the black-and-white backdrop is brilliantly symbolic. When the play begins, the situation on the surface appears to be cut-and-dry, black-and-white just like the backdrop. But then, as other elements of the set are discussed, from the coffee table books to the flowers, it comes to light that everything there has been chosen and placed to be just so. The set reflects the characters’ complicated reality, and life in general, that appearances are not always as they seem. Life can be messy and complicated, leaving lots of roadkill in its wake.
Be sure to catch the show. It will not disappoint.
Visit www.thirdwall.com for further info. God of Carnage runs until March 2ndat the Great Canadian Theatre Company, 1233 Wellington St. W. (at Holland).Tickets are $38 | $30 – Senior | $18 Students, Artists | Last-minute rush seats 10 minutes before curtain. Showtimes Tuesday to Friday 7:30 p.m. | Saturday 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. | Sunday 3 p.m.