Reviewed by George Basler
The four characters in God of Carnage are not the type of people you want to have over for dinner. They’re distinctly unlikable, hiding deep-seated hatreds under cultured facades.
But, boy, are they funny. At least that’s the case in a gleefully nasty new production that opened this past weekend (Feb. 1-3) at the Cider Mill Stage in Endicott.
Bolstered by first-rate performances, the four-person production is fast-paced and darkly hilarious, especially in an explosive second act in which the two couples’ passive/aggressive dislike of each other gives way to outright hostility.
The play is by French playwright Yasmina Reza, who specializes in satirical plays about middle class angst. God of Carnage certainly has that tone. Despite the theatrical maxim that “satire is what closes on Saturday night,” the play had a successful, 15-month Broadway run in 2009-10.
The Cider Mill production is the debut effort of the Fab Arts Company, which is planning to stage four contemporary plays at the Endicott playhouse this season.
Jake Wentlent, a Binghamton actor who is heading the company, hopes the plays will appeal to audiences who patronized the former Cider Mill Playhouse but also attract audience members looking for something that is a little more cutting edge.
“I like the term ‘adventurous,’” Wentlent said.
God of Carnage is certainly that. The play opens in a tastefully furnished Brooklyn apartment where two couples are meeting to have a seemingly rational discussion about a playground fight between their two sons that left one boy with two broken teeth. They start by exchanging innocuous pleasantries and even share dessert. But the discussion slowly, but surely, deteriorates into a battle royale that is less about the boys and more about the hidden resentments of the ostensible adults in the room.
Over 90 minutes, insults fly, animosities are revealed and alliances change from moment to moment. First, it’s one couple against the other. Then, it’s women against the men. Then, it’s every person for his or her self, and God help who’s left standing.
God of Carnage needs skillful acting and direction to make it work. The Fab Arts production delivers both. Director Tom Kremer, a professor of theater at Binghamton University, has paced the action with a deft touch. He skillfully stages bits of physical comedy, which draw hearty laughs, as well as more subtle moments, such as when the two female characters cross their legs in union to make one of their particularly nasty points.
The four cast members — all veterans of other local productions — give performances that are pitch perfect in tone, with comic timing that is as exact as a Swiss watch.
Adam Holley brings the right mixture of comic annoyance and physical humor to the role of an ethically-challenged lawyer who is so wrapped in his constantly ringing cellphone that he rudely ignores everyone else in the room, particularly his uptight wife.
As the wife, Tiffany Jhingoor successfully makes the transition from docile pet (her husband’s nickname for her is “wuff, wuff”) to raging tigress who, after a few belts of rum, is ready to rip her husband, and men in general, to bits. Jhingoor has a flair for physical comedy, and she has some of the play’s best lines.
Jana Kucera and Brendan Curtin also excel as the other couple. Kucera plays the seemingly most rational person in the room, a character who wears her liberal sensibilities like a badge of honor and, at the beginning of the play, seems ready to burst into a chorus of “Kumbaya.” But that pleasant exterior gives way to hysteria as the character reveals her real inner venom. Kucera plays both extremes well.
Curtin also deftly plays the extremes of his character. He starts out a seemingly nice guy, a bit too eager to please, and ends up a raging nihilist, who hates everybody and everything to the point that he throws his daughter’s pet hamster into the streets of Brooklyn because the rodent annoys him (This action is played for laughs so it’s not as shocking as it should be.)
Some critics have labeled Reza’s play as an expert analysis of social hypocrisy. For me, though, it played more like an outrageous cat-fight, gussied up with some sociological babble.
It’s a cat-fight that Holley, Zhingoor, Kucera and Curtin bring vibrantly to life.
If dark humor is your cup of tea, God of Carnage is a furious delight. The Fab Arts Company is off to a promising start.
IF YOU GO: God of Carnage will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 17 at the Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott. Tickets are $20 to $25 and can be purchased at or by calling 206-7779 between 1 and 6 p.m. Details: Visit fabartsco.com or facebook.com/fabartscompany.
Fab Arts’ ‘God of Carnage’ is good, nasty fun
Reviewed by George Basler