Friday, May 02, 2008

God Of Carnage (The SOB Review)

God Of Carnage (The SOB Review) - Gielgud Theatre, London, United Kingdom

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

It doesn't take very long during Yasmina Reza's latest effort God Of Carnage -- as adapted by frequent Reza translator Christopher Hampton -- to get to its very exacting, visceral guts.

By the time seemingly mild-mannered French housewife Véronique Vallon (an absolutely brilliant Janet McTeer) declares, "We're all fundamentally uncouth," all hell has already broken loose. And what a riot it is.

Alain and Annette Reille (Ralph Fiennes and Tamsin Greig, respectively) have been summoned to the home of Véronique and her husband Michel (Ken Stott) after their son has bullied the Vallon's boy. Civility goes out the window almost as quickly as Annette's lunch -- along with every defensive insult -- is hurled in every direction. Alliances quickly realign depending upon the argument du moment.

With Matthew Warchus' razorsharp, precise direction and finely calibrated and downright funny performances from his superb cast of four, it doesn't really matter that Reza is telling all of us that like the characters in God Of Carnage, we're all basically rude, too. Set against Mark Thompson's appropriately stylish blood-red set, it's the delivery of this massacre that makes it an engrossing kill worth watching.

As Alain, Fiennes offers a steely slow burn as the ethically-challenged businessman who can't be bothered with the niceties or apologies he's been asked to submit. Turns out, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but in this case, the junior Reille has branched out and uses sticks as his weapon. Try as she might, not even Annette can mask Alain's insouciance. Although in one of the most rip-roaring, ribald reflexes I've ever seen give way on a stage to date, Greig shocks as her Annette erupts quite literally.

Even as the aggrieved, put-upon Vallons, McTeer and Stott excel at slithering down to the most ignoble base of their beings. But it's McTeer's Véronique who steals the show with a meltdown from the responsible citizen of the world she fancies herself as being into the real human being she truly is.

Yet unlike Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, which presents a mostly vile family virtually lacking in any preposessing virtues, Reza's buoyant new work credibly serves up an assortment of readily recognizable, fully-rounded married couples who march to the beat of a drum we've likely thumped ourselves. And it's all done with a decent dose of humor that makes this 100 minute performance riveting entertainment.

Post Script: It looks as though that drum will be beating closer to home as it's been announced today that Reza's play will see a New York mounting sometime next year.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
London Calling, Celebrity Sightings (April 22, 2008)
The Homecoming (The SOB Review) (January 17, 2008)

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At 03 May, 2008, Blogger Mondschein said...

I'm glad to hear good news of Ms. Reza's new play. Her last piece "The Spanish Play" presented by Classic Stage a year go was simply a mess despite a very talented cast. I'd love to see "God of Carnage" arrive with Mr. Fiennes reprising his role.

At 03 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mondschein, I actually enjoyed this much more than her truly huge international hit Art. Let's hope Janet McTeer transfers to this side of the pond.

At 20 April, 2009, Blogger Dale said...

How interesting to see who was in the cast then and the Broadway version now.

I just saw Janet McTeer in Mary Stuart at Easter (she was excellent as were the rest of the cast) and took in in God of Carnage. Marcia Gay Harden was brilliant and everyone else very enjoyable in the current production.


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