|“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” a rather extreme and out of place quote that expresses (albeit exaggerated) the jist of my feelings for God of Carnage currently running at the Ahmanson Theatre.
The best of times: We are so fortunate to have the dazzling and ridiculously talented original cast from Broadway on stage in our own backyard. Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden are a dream team. There is simply no way I could pick a favorite. The four comprise two couples, parents of two boys who got into a fight at school. Michael (Gandolfini), a household goods seller, and Veronica (Harden), art lover and Africa obsessed, are the parents of the loser of the scuffle, and are the “hosts” of the powwow. Alan (Daniels), an always-talking-on-his-phone fancy pants lawyer and Veronica (by process of elimination, Davis), in wealth management, are visiting to make amends for their son’s actions.
The worst of times: You pretty much have the synopsis of the 90-minute show right there. The privileged couples start their discussion in a civilized manner, but it quickly descends to madness. By madness, I mean misbehaving adults to the point of projectile vomiting over a husbands poor behavior and the swigging of 12 year old rum with declarations that marriage is the worst thing God can inflict on a person and that kids will destroy your life. ETC. Truthfully, it’s a one trick pony. A 90-minute one trick pony. Why do they all stay in the luxurious Manhattan apartment and continue, and continue, and continue to duke it out? Well, this is where suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience comes into play.
The best of times: It’s hilarious. I never once looked at my watch and laughed out loud (not particularly the norm for me) often. And, I really can’t relate to any of the characters. I’m not married, don’t have kids, am not a member of the privileged upper class, and I still laughed. It’s not an inside joke amongst the elite crowd. It’s just plain funny.
The worst of times: It won the Tony for Best Play in 2009. I liked it, really I did, but I don’t know about all that. It’s not going to change your life… and you won’t be wildly attached to the characters. But, I’m ready to recommend keeping your eye on French playwright Yasmina Reza (this script, translated by Christopher Hampton). She’s being compared to Neil LaBute and Tracey Letts. I wouldn’t say she’s there, but she’s on her way. Another beef I have, and I’m in good company, is the venue. The gigantic (certainly for this production) Ahmanson is not the right choice. Why the Ahmanson instead of the Taper? To allow more people to see the show, during it’s limited run? Ok, I can get behind that. Too bad the ticket prices make it cost prohibitive for the masses. The few tickets that could be called affordable are in the nosebleed seats… an especially tough place to view this particular show, which is much more suited for an intimate space.
The best of times: I have to end on a high note. Despite the gargantuan venue, the set and lighting is gorgeous (Mark Thompson and High Vanstone, respectively). The direction (Matthew Warchus) was tight and well… fantastic. Ok, ok… this is a great show with which I take issue on a few details. Am I glad I saw it? Absolutely. Will you be missing out if you don’t make it? Definitely. It isn’t the best, but not even close to the worst. Pinch your pennies and figure out a way to get in on the fun.
Thru May 29th