Wednesday, July 1, 2009

God of Carnage

In our weekend Broadway splurge, we saw three plays. The second was God of Carnage. I'll be honest -- I don't quite get the 3 Tonys this play won (Best Play, Best Direction, Best Actress.) The play was laugh-out-loud funny, but after it was over, we found that there just wasn't that much to chew over or digest or argue about. And isn't arguing over a play half the fun?

God of Carnage is about two couples who meet in one couple's ultra chic living room to discuss a bullying incident between their children. They begin with polite niceties, but it isn't long before the shoes and jackets come off and the invective and vomit flies.

There's a certain pleasure in seeing actors you know only from the screen up close and personal on the stage. But I feel like I have seen these characters before: the self-important lawyer glued to his cell-phone (Jeff Daniels), the raging-within blue-collar type made good (James Gandolfini--aka Tony Soprano), the mousy, dutiful wife who loosens up after a little alcohol (Hope Davis), and the barely-keeping it together alcoholic who doesn't so much loosen up as fall apart after a few drinks (Marcia Gay Harden, who took home the Best Actress Tony.)

Not being a theater critic, and not having seen Harden's competition for the Tony (except for Davis, who was also nominated), I can't really comment on how well deserved the award was. Harden, though, was fantastic -- brittle, acerbic, and very funny. She was one of the best things about the play.

The set was also wonderful, evoking a tony apartment with a sleek mid-century modern aesthetic -- deep red walls and carpets, a huge rock-lined room divider and an enormous coffee table covered with art books, which play a role in one of the most amusing and shocking bits of action in the play.

But when it was over, it all felt a bit like
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf light or like a stagy and shrill sit-com. The central metaphor -- we're all animals at heart -- is rather obvious. And I didn't find any of the characters sympathetic. Unlike Waiting for Godot, I can't imagine reading this play over and over or breathlessly awaiting new productions to see how a different director or cast interpret the play. It was, to paraphrase Godot, a good way to pass the time.

Here's a link to the theater and more information.

Next up: Exit the King, starring Susan Sarandon and Geoffrey Rush.

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