God of Carnage, at the Centaur until December 4th, (and probably longer) is a clever and brutally funny farce that’s the hottest ticket in town. A perfect ensemble cast under Roy Surette’s disciplined and brilliant direction unleashes 90 minutes of domestic mayhem on an unsuspecting audience. The play explores that razor thin line between civility and savagery, love and hate. What we have here is reminiscent of Who is Afraid of Virgina Woolf without Albee’s bite. Playwright Yasmina Reza cuts to the bone but somehow manages to leaves you laughing at the lacerations. Two apparently happily married couples, Michael and Veronica Novak (Ellen David and Mark Camacho) and Alan and Annette “Woof-Woof” Raleigh, (Marcel Jeannin and Janine Theriault) meet to sort out a playground scrap involving their respective sons. The Novak boy has had had two of his teeth knocked out in a scuffle with the Raleigh boy. Naturally, two sets of parents get together to settle the damages.
A semantic misunderstanding over whether the Raleigh boy was “armed” with a stick, escalates into pained frustration. Alan cheerfully admits his son is a savage and is prepared to pay for aggreived kids new front teeth and get on with life But the Novak’s seem determined to extract a pound of emotional flesh before they are satisfied. As the polite small talk is lubricated with a social drink, the fissures and fault lines in their respective marriages are exposed. Veronica Novak is a radical chic writer who believes in the soothing power of culture. She’s publishing a book on Darfur; Her husband is a neanderthal. Ellen David is superb as Veronica. She is insufferably overbearing and earnest, one of those earnest liberals who pay lip service but little else to their beliefs. Mark Camacho seizes the stage like a thick skinned rhinoceros, the kind of guy who delights in killing pet hamsters, and doesn’t let go.
Everything comes to a head when Annette cracks under pressure in a “brutal and catastrophic spray of vomit. ” The unexpected gastric explosion has the audience roaring with laughter in sheer surprise and disgust. After that it’s a no-holds barred, knock down drag out fight. Janine Theriault is ideal as Annette the repressed ice princess; Marcel Jeannin is perfect as her vacuous husband, a successful corporate lawyer who loves his cell phone more than his wife. No one on stage takes a false step, even when Jeannin breaks into a showstopping pirouette of child-like exasperation. You almost expect him to hold his breath and turn blue. By the end of the evening the stage has been soiled not only with vomit, but with bits of clafouti, shreds of cuban cigars and tulips ripped from the vase and scattered to the wind. Michael Eagan has designed an elegantly understated upper crust room, - one of those Architectural Digest libraries where the books are meant to be looked at rather than read - that withstands all the damage. Married couples will undoubtedly find more meaning in the play than those who aren’t. Everyone, however, will have a great time in the realization, as Woody Harrelson once put it, that “Grown ups are just children with layers on.”