A young boy is missing a couple of teeth, thanks to a schoolmate who knocked them out with a stick. Both sets of parents convene to restore order and good faith—or is their reasoning less sincere?
Manners quickly fly out the window and the pairs digress to horrendously plastered—and brutally honest—bouts with their spouses and each other.
In a single act, Adrienne Bischoff, Becky Daggett, Michael Levin and Joe Maniglia bring their characters to blows and fierce mudslinging. Jan Rominger directs Theatrikos’ adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning farcical drama, “God of Carnage.”
The show opens Friday, Sept. 26 and continues weekends through Sunday, Oct. 12, with a special preview performance Thursday, Sept. 25.
The human animal
Part of the human condition is to seek acceptance. After the playground brawl, the offender’s parents, Annette (Bischoff) and her husband Alan (Levin), pay a visit to the wounded party’s swanky Brooklyn pad. Veronica (Daggett) is a writer specializing in the plight of the African continent, and her husband Michael (Maniglia) is a wholesaler.
What begins as an extension of the olive branch decidedly shifts to a complete breakdown of social niceties and escalates into a full-frontal display of the human animal.
“Are we ever interested in anything but ourselves…Does such a thing exist?” Annette asks as she takes another swig of rum. “You do what you can to save yourself.”
More than anything, these middle/upper-class people yearn for acceptance and vindication. But behind closed doors, boozy lubrication yields the bare-all of at least one crumbling marriage.
“The disdain you're seeing is, I think, the byproduct of some intimate relationships,” Bischoff said. “As a two-person team, you rely heavily upon each other to compromise certain needs of the individual to meet the needs of the couple. If a husband and wife can't even agree on those needs and compromises for a short discussion about their children, then you're going to have frustration for sure.”
This frustration rears its head in the form of a four-sided blitzkrieg of sharp-tongued expletives. Maniglia’s character Michael likened marriage to “one pain in the balls after another.”
From the director’s chair, Rominger commends the actors’ brilliant improvisational skills and raw, seething speech.
“Profanity is merely a word-based verbal expression of passion, intensity, emotion, exclamation and often, exaggeration,” she said. “This show has profanity, but I see these word choices representing the characters' deeper emotion, cognition, movement, expression and passion. Not the love passion that attracts you to a mate, but the raw human expression from the deepest core center of your emotional being.”
A thrilling chase
As this article was penned, the actors were two weeks away from curtain call and already rehearsing “off the book.” Rominger attributes this detail to the seasoned cast, and she encourages exploration of character through Reza’s writing.
“There are so many facets I hope get drawn out,” Rominger said. “Sometimes it’s easy to just see the farce.”
During one rehearsal, Daggett brought herself to tears as her on-stage husband mocked her like an hysterical hyena. The genuine pain in her eyes made it next to impossible not to lend the smallest amount of pity for the marriage growing weaker by the moment.
This is a prime example of black comedies toeing the line, as Rominger said, “between the truth of their rage and the betrayal. The challenge is presenting this authentically and in an entertaining way.”
For all the F-bombs and mudslinging between couples, the cast does well to deliver gut-busting monologues and hilarious, childlike tantrums.
Levin plays a corporate attorney bound to the old ball and chain—his cellphone. A tipsy Annette snatches the mouthpiece from his hand as he chases her giddy self around the living room just before she plops it into a cup of water.
The desperate man crumples into a ball like a scolded child at the fate of his 21st century connection.
Bischoff explained the shift in the couples’ priorities. At first they yearn to be seen as prim and proper. As the liquor-tinged sensibilities and honesty flood the room, “we just want to exorcise our frustrations.”
Perhaps it’s just the anatomy of the married human animal, or as Alan boomed, “Marriage…the worst ordeal God can inflict on you. There’s a connection…I believe in the God of Carnage.”