Saturday, July 25, 2009

God Of Carnage (The SOB Revisit)

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

*** (out of ****)

Consider this my visceral tribute to Yasmina Reza's exceptionally brilliant writing that I must now look back on my SOB Review of the 2008 London mounting of her God Of Carnage and revise my overall rating to three and a half stars. Credit the absolute, blissful perfection in the performances from its four stars, Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig, Janet McTeer and Ken Stott.

By finally taking in the Broadway mounting of God Of Carnage with a New York-centric translation from Christopher Hampton, I suffered from the inevitable affliction of comparisons. Yes, the Broadway cast -- Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden -- is certainly top drawer, but with the sole exception of the magnificent Davis, none of these actors come close to the far superior West End performances that singed themselves into my memory well over a year ago.

Harden may have won the Tony for Best Actress, but she's no McTeer, whose earlier, breathtaking portrayal of Véronique (now Veronica) seemed so much more genuine -- particularly from the start. Daniels is fine, but nothing could be finer than Fiennes' slow steely burn as Alain (now Alan). Gandolfini never quite finds the nuances of Michel (now Michael) quite the way Stott did.

Hope Davis, on the other hand, manages to upstage everyone else, and it's not merely because she literally erupts. It's because she plumbs the depths of Annette's pathos with such natural ease, and yes, grace, that she delivers one of the year's most exciting performances period. Ironically, for the one sole character whose name has not changed in translation, Davis provides a vibrant and exciting new take.

And coming full circle, aside from Davis, the real star of God Of Carnage is Reza's razorsharp wit and ingeniously constructed story, making this a recommended show nonetheless.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 25 July, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

Hey Steve,

It's so interesting to read your comparison of the two. And I know what you mean about the inevitable affliction of comparison - that happened to me when I saw a local production of "The Receptionist" and couldn't help but think how Jayne Houdyshell was far superior in the title role.

I liked Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels a lot and part of it may be that because they're the couple on the defensive, they were a little more interesting to me. I especially loved the way Hope Davis moved from being meek and apologetic to something else entirely! She was great. And Jeff Daniels was so expressive - you could tell he was so annoyed at having to be there.

I'm a Sopranos fan so for me, it was just thrilling to see James Gandolfini on stage. But I don't think he made as big an impression as the other three.

Anyway, I would love to have seen Janet McTeer and Ralph Fiennes, too!

At 25 July, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I'm sure I would have appreciated Jeff Daniels more had I not seen Ralph Fiennes.

At 26 July, 2009, Blogger Vance said...

Yah, Marcia Gay was entertaining but I thought Hope Davis was terrific. Though I still don't think the play was as brilliant as it thinks it is. Entertaining yes, but I felt like it could have mined all the issues even deeper and even more biting.

That said, the London cast does seem like a dream cast that would have gone deeper with it all.

At 26 July, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

My beef with Harden comes early. She imbues her Veronica with this actorly air. She gets better during the course of the performance.


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