DENNIS – At Cape Playhouse through Saturday, “God of Carnage” employs a prestigious fight director.
Given the incendiary title, perhaps that’s no surprise. But surprise you it does, a dark comedy about polite society peppered with self-deprecating hilarity and rapid-fire insights into parenting, marriage, and the human character.
There are four protagonists – two married couples dealing with the aftermath of a fight between their young sons.
Jill Abramowitz portrays the animated Veronica Novak, who works in wealth management, and Jason O’Connell plays her husband Michael Novak, who runs a hardware store. Vanessa Lock is the nauseous Annette Raleigh, and Benim Foster is her self-important, mobile phone-addicted husband, attorney Alan Raleigh.
Young Benjamin, the Raleighs’ son, struck Henry in the head at a local park, knocking out two of Henry’s teeth. The play opens with Veronica Novak, reading aloud the terms of financial reimbursement for her son’s dental work.
Should Benjamin apologize to Henry? The parents initially favor letting their boys handle it, but once the adults start drinking rum, all attempts at logic devolve.
“A good beating at recess is a law of life,” Alan says. “I believe in the God of Carnage.”
The quarrel becomes more between mothers and fathers, with emotional range that gradually escalates from frustration to vehemence, culminating in existential musings.
“Women think too much,” Alan says. What men like about women is their sensuality, not their role as custodians of the world. But then, there’s equal-opportunity insulting: “Men are dead weight…clumsy and maladjusted.”
“No one tells you anything about marriage when you start out!” Mike rants. “Children consume our lives then destroy us!”
“Anything happening somewhere else is always more important!” Annette says of Alan’s incessant phone calls.
“Are we ever interested in anything other than ourselves?” Alan asks rhetorically.
“We’re always on our own everywhere,” Veronica concludes, later adding, “You have to believe in the possibility of improvement.”
“God of Carnage” is by French playwright and novelist Yasmina REZA, whose worldwide works – seven plays and six novels – have been translated into 35 languages. The script earned 2009 Tony and Oliver awards for Best Play.
The Cape Playhouse production is directed by Joe Calarco, a founding member and former artistic director of the Grassroots Shakespeare Company of Utah, with scenic design by Sarah Beth Hall, lighting by Andrew Cissna, and fight directing by Casey Kaleba, who, according to the playbill, has “arranged violence for more than 500 productions.”
“God of Carnage”
At the Cape Playhouse, Route 6A, Dennis
Through July 30
Information and reservations: 508-385-3911, www.capeplayhouse.com