By REBECCA J. WILLIAMSON | La Mesa Courier
French female playwright Yasmina Reza partnered with controversial French director, Roman Polanski, to co-write a screenplay version of her play, the black-comedy-drama, “God of Carnage,” that became the 2011 French movie “Carnage.”
Reza’s idea of carnage is being presented to local theater lovers via Lamplighters Community Theatre’s current production of her work, which opened Jan. 10. And, it is good and timely.
Verbal carnage, large and small, is written into almost every character and minute of the play — an 11-year-old brute; adults; comments about the institution of marriage; how big pharma can act immorally; social class distinctions; and more. Nothing is scared or protected — not even a hamster that was allegedly murdered by being set free into the wilds of Brooklyn where the play is set.
And yet it is not without humor at every turn. In fact, it has verbal and physical humor pumped into the actors’ movements, a fight scene, the drowning of a cell phone, and every inflammatory remark. The epitome of dark humor.
The characters are supposed to be civilized. That notion changes fast.
Two sets of “civilized” parents meet to discuss their respective sons’ playground scuffle. It does not go well. Any thought is verbalized without a filter.
Lamplighters director Tyler Richard Hewes pointed out why the play, which debuted in 2006 in France, is so timely.
“The dropping of the masks of civility is so prescient, applicable to our times, while it doesn’t matter where you on the political spectrum — the lack of civility is at an all-time high,” he said, noting the dropping of masks does include some spicy, mature language.
Of note, the part of Veronica Novak was played by assistant director Heather Warren. Amy Stanley, the original cast member was sick, and Warren stepped in to play the part reading off the script. Surprisingly, Warren nailed the “save the earth” fake liberal part very well.
Pam Stompoly-Ericson’s costuming clearly delineates the social status of each couple.
Attorney Alan Raleigh, played by Mike Martin, is undeniably a suited-up corporate shark. His wife Annette, played by Natalie Bohlin, is properly outfitted in a yuppie-era skirt and suit that works well when she has to crawl around the floor as a drunk and when she is vomiting. Hamster “killer” Alan Raleigh (performed by Randy Coull) plays a good dad and husband who developed into a self-proclaimed “Neanderthal” in a fitting jeans and sweater costume.
Dennis Floyd’s set, an apartment in Brooklyn, sets the tone with a good-sized liquor cart, bright orange chairs, backlit modern panels on the back wall, and a decorative wall mask — a mask that is perhaps symbolic of the masks of civility that drop off during the 90-minute, no intermission performance.
Hewes’ use of blocking to pull together each turn of warring characters — the men against the women; the women against the men; the couples infighting; and his use of set design, lighting, and instruction on how to spit out each insult creates the ideas behind the theme of overall carnage.
Appropriately, the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) in partnership with San Diego Theatre Connection has sponsored the production of “God of Carnage.” Built on the principle that every dispute has a solution, the NCRC serves a variety of communities. It provides the resources, training and expertise to help people, organizations and communities manage and solve conflicts, with civility.
“God of Carnage” runs through Feb. 9. Visit lamplighterslamesa.com for further information.
— Rebecca J. Williamson is a local freelance writer who covers a wide variety of news, feature and entertainment stories.