Review: “God of Carnage” in Novato

In the past month, North Bay stages have been occupied by vampires, ghosts, a Thing, and Transylvanian transvestites. The Novato Community Playhouse now finds itself overrun with the most ghastly, heinous, and horrifying creatures ever to set foot on a theatrical stage. I am referring, of course, to white upper middle-class parents, the featured monsters in playwright Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, directed by Terry McGovern and running at the Playhouse through November 18.

Alan and Annette Raleigh (Ken Bacon & Jena Hunt-Abraham) have come to the home of Michael and Veronica Novak (Marty Lee Jones & Heather Shepardson) to discuss the matter of a fight between their sons. It seems that the Raleighs’ son knocked two teeth out of the mouth of the Novaks’ son with a stick.  After a quick review of the Novak’s statement on the incident (and the decision to change the verbiage to reflect the Raleigh boy being “furnished” with a stick, as opposed to “armed”), the two couples sit down to awkwardly determine what to do next.  Over the next ninety intermission-less minutes, the façade of civilized gentility will give way to tribal warfare.

Heather Shepardson, Marty Lee Jones

Reza’s play has always seemed to me to be a grade-b knock-off of Edward Albee’s Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  If it was Reza’s attempt to show that who we appear to be is rarely who we really are, she’s at least fifty years late to that party. What she adds to that familiar trope is the omnipresence and annoyance of cell phones in our lives and a considerable quantity of stage vomit.     

Ah, yes, the vomit. Within the theatre community, this show has garnered the nickname “the vomit play” as there is a scene that requires (per the stage directions) “a brutal and catastrophic spray of vomit.” While it’s always interesting to see how a company accomplishes this, it’s really little more than a device to represent the verbal garbage spewn by many on a daily basis. The Novaks and Raleighs have been vomiting on each other all evening, why not take it to its logical conclusion?

Have I mentioned yet this is a comedy? Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh at the parents’ idiocy, but the joke is ultimately on the audience. Go ahead. Laugh at them, because they couldn’t possibly represent you.

The late, great cartoonist Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” line comes to mind:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

‘God of Carnage’ runs Friday – Sunday through Nov. 18 at the Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Ste. C, Novato.  415.883.4498. $21 – $27.

Photos by Fred Deneau

This review originally appeared in the Pacific Sun.

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