By Dale King
Delray Beach Playhouse drops the curtain on its 2018-2019 theatrical season with the comedy God of Carnage, a 90-minute one-act that has entertained audiences around the world and received both the Tony Award and London’s Olivier Award as Best Play of the Year.
The performance slowly but steadily morphs from a sophisticated discussion between two upwardly mobile couples to an angry, vulgarity-laced, alcohol-fueled, in-your-face squabble. The show and its four actors devolve from well-mannered adults to ill-mannered kids in an effort to resolve a problem involving their own offspring.
God of Carnage (originally written in French by Yazmina Reza as Le Dieu du Carnage) is about two sets of parents, Michael and Victoria Novak (Harry Redlich and Kari Budyk) and Alan and Annette Raleigh (Jim Tyminski and Shayna Gertman), all from the affluent Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.
In a park that day, Alan and Annette’s 11-year-old son hits Michael and Victoria’s 11-year-old boy with a stick, breaking two of his teeth. The parents agree to meet and resolve the matter in a refined and polite manner rather than call in the authorities. However, as the evening progresses, the parents become increasingly juvenile, resulting in a night of cathartic release and emotional purging.
Before the evening is done, Alan, a high-powered lawyer with an overactive cellphone; Michael, a self-made wholesaler with a persistently sick mother; Victoria, an avid human rights advocate who is writing a book about Darfur, and Annette, an insecure housewife with a demonstrably weak stomach, all find themselves in an emotionally charged battle to rationalize and defend their children’s behavior.
What’s particularly funny about this show? Well, the persistent cellphone calls that corporate lawyer Alan keeps fielding without apology annoy the cast and probably the audience, too, as it rings constantly. Turns out he’s doing heavy damage control for a pharmaceutical wonder drug gone bad – a situation worsened when Michael discovers his sick mom is taking it.
The show does not move forward on big laughs alone. Most of the chuckling stems from the little things – Michael conscientiously holding a blow dryer to smooth out damaged art book pages; Victoria soberly wrestling for control of the rum bottle; Annette’s nausea-prone character toting a plastic basin like a security bucket and Alan obliviously shoveling down Victoria’s homemade clafouti while talking on the phone.
God of Carnage delivers the liberating release of watching other people’s marriages going to hell while observing the pitched battle between civilized behavior and savage instinct. This play is top-notch, and only gets better as the combat rages on. Damn the torpedoes; full speed-dialing ahead.
This season’s final production has definite hints of the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Coincidentally, DBP concluded its 2017-2018 schedule with that Edward Albee spectacle. Both shows are two-couple tales of misbehaving adults engaging in over-drinking, overly bad behavior and one woman getting ill. But in Virginia, she made it to the bathroom in time to avoid an accident.
Looking back over the past couple of years at Delray Beach Playhouse, it’s a sure bet that both Virginia Woolf and God of Carnage would not have been staged were it not for the stick-your-neck-out courage of Kevin Barrett, who took over as managing director last year. Carnage is also said to be a favorite of Delray’s longtime artistic director Randolph DelLago, who directs this performance with a savvy knack.
The comic, often sarcastic dialogue in this performance is due in large part to the admirable and easygoing translation from French by playwright and frequent collaborator with Reza, Christopher Hampton, who Americanized the play for stateside audiences.
Let’s not forget the actors who truly make the show happen. Returning are a couple of DBP regulars, Jim Tyminski and Kari Budyk. Jim, often accompanied by his wife, Diane, solos this time in a role that forces him to play against his usual type – but he does it well.
Budyk’s familiar face and knack for quirky portrayals are both on delightful display in this comic drama. Her roster of roles ranges from whimsical to hard-hitting.
Back at DBP for his eighth flight of fancy is Harry Redlich, remembered for his triple-good depiction of three different characters in California Suite. He has quickly notched a spot as one of the most dependable of Delray’s corral of players.
Making her debut at the DBP is Shayna Gertman as Annette, at first a wavering wife who later comes on like a tiger. She rounds out this glittering cast.
God of Carnage plays through June 2 at the Delray Beach Playhouse, 950 NW 9th St. (Lake Shore Drive), Delray Beach. All tickets are $30 and may be purchased online at www.delraybeachplayhouse or by calling 561-272-1281.