NRT’s “God Of Carnage” Heats Up Flex Theatre
Ah, the charms of childhood violence. There’s nothing quite like bearing witness to a gladiator death-match between two explorative prepubescent boys at recess. But do children really grow out of this natural barbarism? No Refund Theatre’s first performance of the semester, Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” explores this idea on the stage.
The play follows the discussion between two sets of parents, Annette (Hannah Kelly) and Alan Raleigh (Jason Burke), and Veronica (Victoria Jones) and Michael Novak (Max Levine). Annette and Alan’s son Benjamin knocks out two of Veronica and Michael’s son Henry’s teeth for not allowing him to join Henry’s “gang.” The obligatorily formal discussion deciding the discourse of punishment soon devolves into a display of anger, discontent, and a general example of human nature censored by the rouse of adulthood.
“Andrew, our director brought us in, for lack of a better word, marriage counseling sessions, so us as couples went in and talked about our own characters, as well as our relationships to our spouses,” Levine said.
Other than psuedo-therapy sessions, director Andrew Leite also worked with each actor to gain a sense of their relationship with their partner.
“I also brought them in individually to talk about things that their spouse might not know. This is the smallest cast I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve always relished the ability to delve really deeply into the characters in a show and this is the first time I was really able to do that and it felt great,” Leite said.
The decision to build up character complexity off-stage was the first key directing decision of many made by Leite and Assistant Director Kelly McNeice. McNeice explains the extent of their character focus over the summer.
“We would ask them during the counseling sessions about things that aren’t in the show, like how their spouse feels about their parents or their children.”
The effective character construction and the realistic dialogue of “God of Carnage,” slowly bleeds tension into the play. This paired with the subtle culmination of a warm lighting design that becomes hot when a conversation goes south, exemplifies the success of story comprehension.
“There are points at which one character is being attacked, another character is being attacked, these two are on the same side, and then these two are on the same side,” said Burke. “You kind of have to know the more intimate details of their character to understand how that happens on stage.”
Another rewarding directing decision in “God of Carnage” comes from the use of two props, alcohol and a vase of tulips. Leite explains his interpretation of the tulips and alcohol.
“I thought of them as the meeting, the only thing Veronica and Michael went out of their way to do to make this a presentable space was the tulips, and they’re the last things that are destroyed,” he said. “Now the veil is off and it’s just people being themselves. The alcohol really says, okay, we’re going to get shit-faced and talk about who we are.”
“God of Carnage,” is concerned with nihilism, the facade of adulthood, the purpose of civilization and gender, and the anxieties of being human. It’s showing in the Flex Theatre in the HUB from Sept. 15-17 at 9 p.m. As with all NRT shows, admission is free. Check out some scenes from the play: