Are we ever interested in anything but ourselves? If one can be interested in something other than ones’ self for just a moment, take interest in the Silver Spring Stage production of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Translated by Christopher Hampton and Directed by Adam R. Adkins, this viscerally biting comedy displays the inner child in four seemingly sophisticated adults. As their children come to blows on the playground and how to handle the situation is discussed, two mature adult couples devolve into the histrionics of their immature brutalizing children. Quick-witted, hilarious, and ultimately a reflection on culture and society as a whole, this intense comedy is a burst of entertainment for their first full-length shows of the season at The Stage.
Taking a surprising step back from the usually lavish and effective sets that The Stage has showcased in shows previous, Director Adam R. Adkins and Co-Designer Bob Scott focus on a simplistic and homey approach to interior of the Brooklyn home. While it played up that Michael and Veronica come from a worldly home— well-educated with global interests in their daily pursuits— this is not reflected in Adkins and Scott’s design. This intriguing minimalist approach layers in an unspoken arrogance to the pretentious characters of Michael and Veronica; they are so above material possessions that they hardly need to display their wealth and knowledge. Star Johnson’s “special effects” involvement should be noted, though what particularly for might cause upheaval in the spoiler department.
Adkins does drive the pace of the production at a mostly consistent rate; the 90 minutes moves as it should and feels about 90 minutes long. There are moments, however, where silences are created and lingered in but not actuated. Adkins has not created the unspoken cohesivity that these silences require to sustain the audience’s attention during these moments and they become distracting at times, though they occur sparingly throughout. The cast delivers four striking individual performances but feel disconnected; four solo performers who happen to be acting on the same stage. This does work to the script’s advantage in places, particularly after large blow-up scenes, which do to their plot-ripe nature, shall not be described. Reading like an explosive series of disjointed tempers there is something to be said about Adkins’ choice of jaded detachment; highlighting the key element of disillusion that thrums as an undercurrent in Reza’s work.
Alan (Andrew Greenleaf) is a particularly disconnected character, except for when it comes to his phone. The last to raise a temper, but the first to have a bristly opinion, Greenleaf gives the character a particularly jaded energy which is suitable for his digital dependence. His facial expressions near the end of the play after his separation from the thing he loves most are truly priceless. Greenleaf is the first of the four to devolve back to the ugly truth of human nature and does so with vigor.
Annette (Lauren Kieler) playing opposite of Alan is a much more annoying character. Vapid and static, Kieler gives this simpering woman depth in the way she achieves the hysterics that occur both before, during, and after a major plot point of the performance. Teaming up with Veronica (Alyssa Sanders) Kieler becomes punch-drunk when the team start bonding over being female in a male dominated world.
Sanders, who maintains her composure until the last second, is a strong leading presence on the stage. She does bring a more connective chemistry with her character to her husband than Kieler does to her husband’s character, but given the dynamic of the two couples; this is proportionate to the harmonies and discords of the marriage. Her high-strung energy keeps her perpetually teetering on the brink as she attempts to remain level-headed about the entire situation.
Michael (Bob Harbaum) is a deadpan deadweight throughout most of the performance. His inadvertent awkwardness makes for ripe comic moments that really land with the audience. Pushing those awkward moments just a little bit further would ensure comic genius. His moments of explosive temper— particularly during the “hamster/rodent” rant— are lively and uproarious.
See civilization uncivilized; experience the inner urges of childlike tantrums through four grown adults and see if you can keep from doing the same in your own life when problems arise. Silver Spring Stage has recess for adults with this great comic start to their new season.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission
God of Carnage plays through October 11, 2014 at Silver Spring Stage— 10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (301) 593- 6036 or purchased them online.