God of Carnage plays out in real time over 90 minutes or so in the Brooklyn apartment of Veronica and Michael. They have invited another couple, Annette and Alan, over for a civilized discussion after an altercation between their sons. It seems the latter's son hit the former's son in the face with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. They meet to discuss what to do about it and how to resolve the situation. But of course it's not really about the children, it's about the parents, and as the time goes on (and coffee gives way to rum) they each let down their pleasant company facade and let the truth fly with all the ugliness that often entails. Conflicting parenting styles and world views collide, as alliances between the four are made and broken. Needless to say, they don't ever get around to solving their children's problem, and instead find they have even bigger problems to deal with. The reason this "people behaving badly" play works is that each of the characters has humanity and depth, so that maybe you can empathize with one or more of them, even as you're horrified by their words or actions. Because being human is messy, and most of us don't have things figured out as much as we pretend to.*
|Sara Marsh, Peter Christian Hansen, Luverne Siefert,
and Mo Perry (photo by Bryce Johnson)
Gremlin's thrust performance space is well used, with a couch, coffee table, and chairs in the center, bar in one corner, cabinet in the other, and the actors using all of the available space. Character appropriate clothing includes classic business attire for Alan and Annette (complete with outerwear), and more of a casual chic look for Veronica and Michael (scenic design by Rick Polenek, costume design by Sara Marsh).
God of Carnage is the kind of play that makes a person glad they don't have a spouse or children, and those who do might just relate a little too well to the shenanigans. It's a little scary to think that this play premiered 13 years ago, considering how much our civility and ability to have reasonable conversations have declined since then. The "God of Carnage" certainly seems to still rule supreme, especially in politics and social media. But maybe seeing it in the extreme, and laughing at it, helps.
*Plot summary borrowed from what I wrote about the 2018 production at Lyric Arts.