Wednesday, May 19, 2010

God Of Carnage (The SOB Revisit)

God Of Carnage (The SOB Revisit) - Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

Late yesterday, it was announced that the closing for Yazmina Reza's God Of Carnage -- last year's Tony Award-winning Best Play -- would be advanced to June 6.

What a pity, especially now that the show is finally in about the best shape I've ever seen it, and that includes performances on both sides of the Atlantic.

With original London cast member Janet McTeer taking on the role of Vernonica, plus Jeff Daniels now portraying Michael -- which honestly is much better suited to his talent -- the riotous play is even funnier and more fierce than ever. Topping it off in losing her lunch is Lucy Liu alongside Dylan Baker as her smarmy attorney spouse.

My only quibble with the Broadway production is a seemingly tiny change en route from the West End to the Great White Way. I never had any real issue with the comedy's setting being altered from Paris to New York, which was the biggest change between the two productions, along with the characters' names being tweaked accordingly.

But when I first saw God Of Carnage in London two years ago, there was a line there that struck me to the point I even wrote about it in my initial SOB Review there. Janet McTeer's character essentially shouted at one key point, "We're all fundamentally uncouth." The line and its delivery gripped me. It brilliantly exposed the incivility of this and every other conflict in our modern world.

When I first saw the show on Broadway last year, I was waiting for, yet never heard, that remarkably transformative line. Neither did I hear it when I returned to see it with its current cast. I was left puzzled. Had I actually remembered the London incarnation incorrectly?

Since McTeer would certainly know, I decided to visit the stage door and pose the question to her directly to see if my recollection was just plain wrong. She told me that the line was replaced with "we're all f***ing neanderthals" for American audiences. Was I ever dismayed, particularly since the line had worked so well in London. Guess it just shows to go you what the director, the playwright and the translator must really think of their American audiences -- we're apparently so uncouth that we can't even understand the meaning of the word.

Oh well. Irrespective of that nit, my third time with the show was the charm. And Janet McTeer? Well, she's just plain charming.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 19 May, 2010, Blogger Esther said...

That is interesting about the changed line. I'm dismayed they decided American audiences needed the f-word.

At 19 May, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but no says the f-word better than Janet McTeer.

I never saw the earlier casts, but this one really clicks!

I was especially impressed with Lucy Liu. She stood toe-to-toe with seasoned stage performers, and performed wonderfully.

Julie the Jarhead

At 19 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

It's a sad commentary on the perceptions of Americans, isn't it?!

At 20 May, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, Steve.

It's bad enough that movies have been "dumbed down" to the point of unwatch-ability.

When it happens in theater, it's criminal.

To her credit, Ms. Reza tried to keep the play more French. (For people who know me, I usually don't use the word 'French' in a complimentary tone.)

All things being said, most of us can agree on one thing: Janet McTeer is one of the most gracious ladies on either side of the pond.

At 20 May, 2010, Anonymous waffleironshoes said...

I've seen God of Carnage (since March) 6 times and before reading this post, I never actually felt slighted in the handling of this production. They must think Americans are somehow inferior and less intellectual if they are willing to substitute a line like "We're all fundamentally uncouth" for "We're all f*cking neanderthals." Don't get me wrong, I do think that Janet McTeer's delivery of that line is immensely hilarious, but just the mere fact that it was decided Americans couldn't appreciate the humor and accuracy of "uncouth" is a tad insulting.

Regardless of this change, I too have found that the current cast is probably the best American audiences have had - McTeer is fundamentally magnificent, and I agree with your comment about Daniels being better suited for the part of Michael (Baker's Alan is refreshingly snarky and arrogant).

I'll actually have the opportunity to see God of Carnage twice more before it closes on June 6th. Even with the dialogue changes in our American version, I still think this is thee funniest show on Broadway. I certainly have never laughed so hard in all my life during a theatre production as I have with G of C. And I suppose it helps that watching Janet McTeer on stage is "a little like falling in love" every time you see her perform.

At 20 May, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

My beef is that they already had a perfect line in "fundamentally uncouth" and felt the need to dumb it down for what they presumed is a neanderthal American audience.

Fortunately, the cast is about as pitch perfect as you can get. And is there any way we can make Janet McTeer stay here?

At 20 May, 2010, Blogger karigee said...

I see your points, but I take it from another angle (having seen only the American version) -- to me "Neanderthal" is stronger (with or without the f-word) -- more illustrative vs. simply descriptive. And I think it's something a person is more likely to shout in the midst of a heated argument when all the gloves have come off. It sounds more natural to me and yes, I speak as an American who doesn't consider it a dumbing down of the dialogue at all.

At 20 May, 2010, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

I don't appreciate use of expletives. It's not smart or clever and its usually used when one can't think of anything else to say, especially during angry moments. So when it's used in writing, it has come across as realistic. I think here, the situation is so charged and out of control it works. Perhaps the writer and director didn't dumb it down just because we're American, but decide it works better - it certainly gets your attention and that character's husband is certainly acting as a neanderthal.

At 20 May, 2010, Anonymous waffleironshoes said...

"And is there any way we can make Janet McTeer stay here?"

I've been wondering that myself since I first saw her in Mary Stuart last summer. Even if Ms. McTeer didn't jump right into another Broadway production, it would be nice to see her on a weekly television program. Shoot, I'd listen to her read the phone book if that's what it came to. I wish she didn't have to head back across the pond. :(

At 20 May, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And is there any way we can make Janet McTeer stay here?"

My ideal scenario was for her to replace S. Epatha Merkerson on LAW & ORDER.

She's filming ALBERT DOBBS in Dublin in June/July.

Afterward, hopefully, she has something planned (that we don't know about) that brings her back the USA.


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