Review: God of Carnage (Studio 180 with Mirvish)

Photo of Linda Kash and Tony Nappo in God of Carnage

The thoughtful and hilarious God of Carnage is playing at Toronto’s Studio 180 Theatre

I really love the Off-Mirvish Series. It’s an opportunity to introduce a Mirvish audience to a different type of show from blockbusters like Les Miserables. This season, its second, was launched with a presentation of God of Carnage, a Studio 180 Theatre production at the Panasonic Theatre.

And what an excellent start it was. I found it a thoroughly satisfying night of theatre. There were moments of intense discomfort and moments of absolute hilarity. It’s a combination I loved.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is sharp, thoughtful and bloody funny. The script is nicely complemented by strong direction from Joel Greenberg and wonderful performances from the cast of four; John Bourgeois as Alan, Sarah Orenstein as Annette, Tony Nappo as Michael, and Linda Kash as Veronica.

When we walked into the auditorium I wasn’t sure what to expect. The stage itself was hidden behind what looked like a giant version of a painting a kid would make. It was fun and playful, and for no apparent reason, it also felt a bit ominous to me.

The lights dimmed, the painting was whisked away so quickly it practically vanished and all of a sudden the show had started. We were looking in on two couples sitting in a living room, having a discussion. I actually heard some gasps when this happened. It turned out that this was just a hint of what was to come. It set the tone for the piece filled with abrupt and surprising things.

The piece somehow is completely realistic, but also kind of absurd at the same time. The whole design is realistic; the set, the lights, the sound, the costumes, they all give the feeling of a contemporary pair of couples in a contemporary living room. In the 90 minutes (no intermission) of the show we experience 90 minutes of the characters lives. It’s a slice of life.

But oh the life. The knock down throw down life. That’s where it gets a bit absurd. And uncomfortable. And hilarious. Perhaps that’s where the discomfort comes from, laughing at something that should be awful.

My show partner for the night, Sam, also loved the piece, and when I asked her what she loved the most she said she loved the physical elements. She really enjoyed all of the unexpected physical moments. I hadn’t really thought of it before we’d talked about it, but she’s right, this is a piece filled with physicality.

Sometimes it’s hard when I ask myself the same questions I ask my show partners. I’m not sure what I liked most. I liked the whole thing. But I am most intrigued by the fact that, for me, this was kind of like two plays in one. The reason I find that so intriguing though is because I’m not sure that would have been the case before I had kids.

For me it was one play about this subtle struggle that parents have with other parents around judgment about how we raise our kids, culminating in a line that basically says something to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing) ‘obviously you’re better parents than us, we’ll try to do better’.

And then a second play starts, this one about the characters themselves. Insecurities, juicy pasts, nicknames, they all come out in that second play.

That my friends, is the joy of theatre. We all see different stuff when we go depending on who we are and what we’ve experienced in life. Pretty cool, huh?

The talent on stage was a sight to behold, something magic can happen when you get four really strong actors on stage. Orenstein skillfully has Annette unravel onstage in the most believable way, while Kash just as skillfully winds Veronica tighter and tighter as the show goes on. Nappo seamlessly has Michael play a part, never an easy task – act like the person acting like something else.

Everyone was fantastic, but it was John Bourgeois who stole my heart in the performance I saw. The way he channeled the asshole self-centred big-wig lawyer was pretty incredible. He was so very very good at making me want to punch him.

The bottom line is, this is a fantastic show, a great script, a stage filled with amazing energy, moments that make you think, and moments that provide belly laughs. When the lights went down at the end of the show as we sat in the dark, just before the audience applauded, I heard someone say a hushed “wow.” I feel like that’s the best endorsement, an unselfconscious anonymous “wow” uttered by a stranger in the dark.

Details

  • God of Carnage is playing until December 15, 2013 at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St)
  • Show runs Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 7pm. Additional matinee performances on Saturdays and Sundays Matinees at 2pm. There is an added performance Wednesday December 4 at 1:30pm, and there is NO performance Sunday December 8 at 7pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $55 – $95 with some limited $19 tickets available (or you can buy the Off-Mirvish Subscription Series and get all three Off-Mirvish shows for either $99 or $150) and are available by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, in-person at the Panasonic Theatre box office or online at Mirvish.com

Photo of Linda Kash and Tony Nappo by Josie Di Luzio.

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