Nantucket’s own White Heron is officially flying. Nantucket’s newest theatre company presents French playwright Yasmina Reza’s Broadway hit God of Carnage, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play. Reza’s script manages to entwine slapstick with the subtle, refined humor allowed by the fact that banter in relationships does not always require words. The film world picked up Reza’s story in 2011, when Roman Polansky directed a feature film based on the play but with its name chopped down to the bare essentials. “Carnage” starred Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz and garnered critical acclaim.
Our story begins with two married couples meeting to discuss a playground scuffle had between their sons. They meet; they gush; they grin; they shove their best faces as far forward as they can without damaging them in the process. But of course, all glossy patinas eventually start to crack. (How about some pretension with that clafouti?) Of course, every parent wants to believe that their child could not possibly be capable of wrongdoing. “Obviously it was the other child’s fault,” you can almost hear each parent think. It isn’t long before we realize that these unsympathetic characters should be rated R for Ridiculous; not a single one of them is likable. We just want to yell, “So leave already!” And despite our own frustration, we just cannot tear our eyes away from the social disarray, spread sloppily -and hilariously- all over the floor.
The set is simple in design, but it gets its point across. We’re in the home of rich urban dwellers who moved up from New York City’s 70s streets years ago and now enjoy a luxuriously low street number. Scenic Artist Zeb Bennett has created a modern backdrop for a home whose decor and inhabitants scream “wealth!” in unison. Complementing Bennett’s original background is original background music by Nantucket composer A. W. Bullington.
Director Lynne Bolton has cast her characters immaculately. Michael Kopko weaves Stanislavski’s realistic method into his performance as Michael Novak, the self-made wholesaler whose level of refinement falls short of his wife’s. Mrs. Veronica Novak is played by Brandy Zarle, who brings to life the stereotypical Manhattan housewife whose possessions are of utmost importance. Laura Gallagher Byrne portrays Annette Raleigh, who briefly gathers our sympathy on a few occasions, but whose self-righteous indignation drains those feelings right alongside the group’s fancy bottle of Scotch. Tim Rush is a dashing Alan Raleigh, the high-powered corporate attorney who seems to require surgery to separate his phone from his ear. We get our title drop from the arrogant Alan: “I believe in the god of carnage, the god whose rule’s been unchallenged since time immemorial.” Go below the surface of these superficial people and you’ll find that this play is, above all, heavy with implication. Reza has made us laugh all evening; now it is time to ponder the situation, which is actually rather grave.
Despite this show centering around such childish behavior, the language is only fit for adults. Performances will continue this weekend at 7:30 p.m. on January 31, February 1 and 2. All shows are held on the main stage at The Dreamland. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors, $30 per adult or $50 for two adults, and can be purchased at www.DreamlandTickets.org. photos by Cary Hazlegrove